Published 2022/12/12

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Four-time champion jockey Richard Johnson visits Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows to ride out Champ ahead of the Howden Christmas Racing Weekend at Ascot

Video Interview  

Video Interview

Champ will bid for back-to-back victories in the Howden Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, the feature race of the Howden Christmas Racing Weekend (Friday 16th and Saturday 17th December).

Trained by Nicky Henderson and owned by JP McManus, the 10-year-old is likely to face old rival Paisley Park in what is set to be a thrilling renewal of the Grade 1 contest. The pair were recently seen battling it out in the Grade 2 Coral Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, with Champ just getting the better of Paisley Park to win by a neck.

Speaking to the four-time Champion jockey, Richard Johnson, Henderson believes that Champ has come out of Newbury in good form and is looking forward to the rematch at Ascot.

Henderson said: “We had a long think about running him at Newbury. When he won the Howden Long Walk Hurdle last year it was his first time out and we have a little sneaky feeling that he might be very good fresh. It was a question of whether we waited for the Ascot race or let him go to Newbury.’

“Newbury was a good race and him and Paisley Park had a great battle. There was nothing between them and they are obviously going to meet again. It’s great to see two old 10-year-olds like that - they don’t behave like 10-year-olds!”

A previous two-time winner of this race, Paisley Park finished third behind Champ in the Howden Long Walk Hurdle last year. Other notable entries in this year’s renewal include Grade 2 course winner Goshen, trained by Gary Moore, and the Paul Nicholls-trained Miranda, who was an impressive 11 lengths winner at Kempton last time out.

A record four-time winner of this prestigious long-distance hurdle race, Richard Johnson feels that stamina will play a major role on Saturday, saying: “The most important thing for the Howden Long Walk Hurdle is you need a horse that stays really well. At Christmas time the ground is quite testing, and you need a real stayer. That’s what Champ showed last year so hopefully he will have a strong chance of repeating his bid.”

No stranger to rivalries within racing, Johnson rode against the 20-time Champion jockey AP McCoy throughout most of his career, finishing runner-up to him 16-times in the jockeys’ championship.

Johnson added: “Champ is obviously named after AP McCoy, it’s a great performance to find such a good horse to be named after him as well so I feel a bit jealous to be honest! We rode together for twenty years; I think if I had a horse named after me it’s probably wouldn’t be quite so good! We rode together for over twenty seasons, off the racecourse he was great fun, on the racecourse he was the hardest man to beat.”

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About Howden:

In 2021 Howden signed a five-year deal with Ascot Racecourse which saw the insurance broker become an Official Partner of the racecourse. As part of this partnership Howden is title sponsor of the Howden Christmas Racing Weekend at Ascot which features the Grade 1 Howden Long Walk Hurdle and Grade 2 Howden Noel Novices' Chase.

Howden is already a well-known name in the horse racing industry, arranging specialist equine insurance solutions for equestrian associations, racecourses, racehorse trainers, stud farms, riding schools and horse owners. The broker’s founder, David Howden, is also the founder and president of the Cornbury House Horse Trials and has invested in British Eventing through The Howden Way. The Howden Way consists of a training programme for young riders of all levels which runs alongside a young horse talent pathway programme.

Four-time Champion Jockey Richard Johnson is a Howden Ambassador. He is a winner of the Howden Long Walk Hurdle a record four times - Anzum (1999), Mighty Man (2006), Reve di Sivola (2012, 2013).