New champion jump jockey Richard Johnson celebrated his recent crown with a great start to the defence of the title – by riding a double at Fontwell Park.
After drawing a blank at Sedgefield on Thursday, Johnson - the No1 after years of playing second fiddle to Tony McCoy - was in superb form at the West Sussex track to land his first two victories of the 2016-17 jumps season.
The first win was in the Coastal Wall Ties Handicap Chase when Johnson and trainer Philip Hobbs teamed up for success with Quadriller, the 85/40 favourite, who was tipped on this website before racing.
Then the same duo were victorious again when Banyu, the 2/1 favourite, won the Wirsol Energy Ltd Handicap Hurdle ten lengths ahead of Maestro Royal.
Johnson said he was pleased to get off the mark for the new campaign and was enjoying being the champ. “It’s been amazing and everyone’s been very supportive,” he said.
After heavy rain, the sun came out for a Fontwell crowd who had come to enjoy seven races and a 90s party with Spirit FM and the Take That Experience after the sporting action.
There was a surprise in the opener, the Chancellor Of The FormChecker Handicap Hurdle, as Josh Moore rode Rolling Dough to a 14/1 victory for trainer Diana Grissell.
And there was more for the Moore family later in the card as Jamie Moore rode a winner for trainer dad Gary – timing a late run to the front superbly to take the Great Lion Roofing Handicap Chase by half a length on Ilewin For Hannah (6/1).
The Wizard Windows Maiden Hurdle was claimed by Kielan Woods on the Alex Hales-trained Vaillant Creek (8/1) and there was a photo finish in the Bennetts Removals & Deliveries’ Handicap Chase, eventually awarded to 9/4 favourite Mercers Court (Trevor Whelan/Neil King) by a neck from 6/1 chance Butlergrove King (see the finish in the video, above).
The last, the Rita Sen Solicitors Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, went to Stamp Your Feet under Paddy Brennan - with man of the moment Johnson pushing him all the way on The Blue Bomber, who was second.
Fontwell’s next meeting is a Hunter Chase evening on Thursday, May 12. Book at www.fontwellpark.co.uk or on 01243 543335, with discounts on advance tickets.
See all the Fontwell and Goodwood action in the Observer on Thursday.
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