Richard Johnson Names His Tips For Cheltenham Trials And Who He Likes The Look Of For Cheltenham Festival 2024

Richard Johnson’s Cheltenham Festival 2024 ante-post tips

Race: Richard Johnson’s Tip 🐎
- Stayers’ Hurdle Teahupoo
- Mares’ Novices Hurdle Dysart Enos
- Cheltenham Gold Cup L’Homme Presse

Richard Johnson’s Stayers’ Hurdle Tip

(Teahupoo) - He was very impressive on his seasonal comeback. He was only just beaten in the race last year. The connections have decided he is not going to run again until the Stayers’ Hurdle. It is a brave thing to do, but they know he is very good when fresh. For me that is a real sign that they think he has a very good chance in what looks to be a very open race. For me he is a definite strong fancy for Gordon Elliott.

Richard Johnson’s Mares’ Novices Hurdle Tip

(Dysart Enos) - She was a top class bumper mare last year. She looks very professional and I was very impressed with her over hurdles this year. It is only a matter of time before Fergal O’Brien has some really good graded horses. I thought she looked very smart and I think is a star of the future.

Richard Johnson’s Cheltenham Gold Cup Tip

(L’Homme Presse) - He is a big outsider after his setback with injury but I am sure Venetia Williams can get him back. I don’t think it was a huge problem he had. He could run very well in the Gold Cup. He is one of those horses who has been perhaps overlooked by some people. As a novice he was very good and he could still be better than we have seen. He will be a massive price in what looks like a really open Gold Cup. The favourite is obviously very strong but take him out and I think it is a wide open race, so L’Homme Presse has a good each way chance.

Is Trails Day a good indicator For Cheltenham Festival 2024?

Cheltenham Trials Day is good but it is hard to gauge any indicators for the Festival itself

It is harder. If some of the main contenders turn up then we will get a better idea. But I think it will be unlikely that you’ll get a really strong view straight after the race. If something is very impressive his price will tumble but for a lot of trainers, their very best horses are slowly being prepared for March.

It sounds bad but it just shows how strong the Festival is. It is such a big thing for everyone. It is not about the prize money. Aintree has equally good prize money but Cheltenham is where everybody wants to walk into the winner’s enclosure and if you have got a horse that is good enough, it is very hard for an owner not to want to be there.

After Trials Day, the Newbury meeting with the Denman Chase and the Game Spirit, and the Dublin Racing Festival, people will start to put the pieces of the jigsaw together. All those races in the next six weeks will determine where you felt the best trial was or the best performance you saw.

Sunday night racing - Do We Need It?

"We don’t need Sunday night racing - it is a step too far"

Sunday night is too far and too much and we don’t need it. If we are not careful we will have racing 24/7. And where do you stop?

When Sunday racing was first started they said it would be only once a month. Now it is every Sunday all year round.

People will say to jockeys that if they don’t want to ride on a Sunday, then don’t ride. That’s not how they operate. They are self-employed and want to keep their trainers happy. It is hard for a lot of jockeys who are trying to make a living. It is very hard to say ‘No’ to a ride.

Stable staff work really hard every day of the year and to be asked to go racing on a Sunday evening is a step too far. Even the mornings are a problem. I feel it is overload. We have an awful lot of racing in this country and I don’t feel we need more racing for the sake of it.

I have always wondered why we need racing seven days a week. It is too much. I always felt that in the summer you could easily have jump racing on a Monday and no Flat racing and in the winter have all weather racing on a Monday and no jumping to try and give everyone a break. It is not just the jockeys and stable staff who have to be there.

Everybody needs a work life balance especially when you are young. And if it is your horse that you’re looking after you’ll want to take it racing. But at the same time in the middle of winter when it is either soaking wet or freezing cold everyone needs a day off at least once a fortnight just to do something a little bit different.

Richard Johnson’s toughest rival

"Sir Anthony McCoy was my toughest rival - he was hungry for anything"

He was the hardest person I had ever ridden against. You knew he was hungry for anything, from Cartmel to Cheltenham. Every winner counted, we were both similar in that regard. We never wanted to have a day off. If there had been Sunday evening racing when we were riding we would have done that!

Richard Johnson’s 2002 season "The season when I broke my Leg"

"The 2002 season when I broke my leg was the one that got away"

The season when I broke my leg at Newton Abbott in 2002, we had both made an amazing start to the season. We were both on round 80 winners in August and that season I felt that we were neck and neck.

Obviously, Martin Pipe had lots of horses to run during the summer (for AP), while the Welsh trainers were very keen on summer racing too. It showed this year with Sean Bowen that if you get a really good start in the summer it does really push you.

I am not saying I would definitely have beaten him but that was the season when I felt everything was going well. I had numbers to ride and some quality ones with [trainer] Phillip Hobbs. I missed three months and my chance had gone, that would have been a very interesting time.

Often AP [McCoy] would be 20 or 30 winners ahead by Christmas and I would think ‘Oh God’! But there were a couple of years when we were close, especially when he moved to ride for JP McManus and when he was going to Ireland a bit more. He didn’t quite have the firepower in England he did when he was at Martin Pipe’s, but he always found a way.

Richard Johnson’s jockeys championship Win

It almost felt like the whole of the racing world was trying to get me over the line. I rode for I don’t know how many different trainers and rode winners for everybody from Perth to Plumpton, rode for people I had never ridden for before, even JP [McManus, owner]. He was very supportive and I rode a lot of winners for him, especially through that summer.

I got huge support from the public who seemed to be willing me on. It would have been an awful let down if I hadn’t been champion. It wouldn’t have looked very good having been second all those years! For me, that was huge.

Richard Johnson’s Take On JP McManus

"JP McManus is an amazing man and he deserves everything he gets back from the sport"

He is amazing. I only rode for him for a little bit, but I was very lucky to ride some really good horses for him.

But even when I started I remember on my first ride for him, just putting his colours on you felt very privileged. Growing up and when I started in racing, he has always been top of the tree and someone you’d love to ride for. He does have a lot of winners, but he puts an awful lot into our sport and what is really nice is that he has his main trainers, but he will have a lot of trainers in England and Ireland with whom he has a handful of horses. He does spread his horses around and that has to be for the good of racing.

Without doubt racing is his passion and he deserves everything he gets from the sport.

Will Jonbon Take On El Fabiolo In The Clarence House at Ascot?

"Jonbon is the best of the British - I hope he takes on El Fabiolo in the Clarence House at Ascot"

I think he [Jonbon] will go to Ascot. I don’t see why Nicky Henderson would swerve him [El Fabiolo]. He has to go somewhere.

In the past, the top two mile chasers used to take each other on three or four times a year and it was always a very competitive group.

Jonbon is the best of the British. I was impressed with him at Sandown [when winning the Tingle creek]. He has grown up a little bit and I think a Championship race is better for him because he is a horse that stays really well. Sometimes if you have a crawl at 8/1 on you won’t get the best out of him.

Cheltenham will bring the best out of him in March but it would be good for him to have a proper contender.

Willie’s [Mullins] horse was very impressive at Cheltenham. Until they actually run against each other in Ireland or England, it is very hard to gauge the real class of a race until you see two or three good horses running against each other. That is when you really get the feel for it. The Clarence House has always been a great race for the Champion Chase horses coming through.

Ascot will suit Jonbon, that stiff test. He is a horse who a true run race will bring the best out of him on a galloping track. I will definitely be on the British side but it will be a very close run race. I will be hoping they will both be there.

Trials Day 2024 at Cheltenham - Who Will Turn Up?

"Constitution Hill is a horse we all want to see on Trials Day at Cheltenham - but you do wonder who will turn up"

It all depends on what turns up. For the Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle, it is hard not to run a horse in the Trial if you feel they are a genuine Triumph hurdle horse.

But the juveniles are horses you don’t want to overwork. You are trying to bring them to their peak in March. The ground will be hard work on Trials day, even if we get some dry weather. So, I wonder who will turn up. One thing you will find out is whether your horse can handle the track.

The International Hurdle has also moved to this meeting from December. [Trainer] Nicky Henderson was a strong advocate for it to switch. Constitution Hill is a horse we will all want to see so hopefully it will be a positive to have moved the race and provide a stepping stone from the Christmas Hurdle to the Champion Hurdle. He will be a very short-priced favourite whoever turns up. I can’t believe any of the leading Champion Hurdle contenders will take him on in that race, but it would be nice if they did!

The Cotswold Chase, for me, is the race we could definitely get a few more pointers for the Gold Cup. Venetia Williams has got L’Homme Presse, will he come back there? I am not sure where she will run him.

He is almost a forgotten horse. He looked like being a very, very good horse before he got his injury last year. If he can come back, he could easily jump back into the Gold Cup picture.

The Ballymore? Nicky and Paul [Nicholls] have some quite nice novices around. Some of the Irish trainers will probably bring horses over for it and there is really good prize money on offer. It will be a very competitive race.

Evan Williams’ horse Liberty Hunter, who won at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, definitely looks like a good purchase - he could well rock up.