The Jockey’s Journal: Abandoned race cards, ITV’s broadcast coup and Richard Johnson’s milestone

The Jockey’s Journal: Abandoned race cards, ITV’s broadcast coup and Richard Johnson’s milestone

IT HAS been a bleak two weeks for jumping, with many race cards abandoned due to the poor weather, particularly in the north of England.

With the Flat races there’s the all-weather surfaces, which work out alright when there’s been heavy rain, and they don’t freeze unless the temperature drops to around minus six.

But as a Jump jockey, you definitely come into January and February knowing that there’s a possibility of there being no work on – you’re lucky if you get a full week’s work in January.

Last year we were quite lucky actually, but previous years it’s been a washout.

I live in York and the town was badly flooded recently – we had at least a month’s rain over a day or two – but the likes of Carlisle have had it far worse.

Meanwhile, ITV obtaining the rights to broadcast racing instead of Channel 4 as of 2017 was an interesting development.

It’s going to be a bit strange because, growing up as a racing fan, it’s always been on BBC or Channel 4 for me.

But I suppose it’s just a sign of the times. I mean, racing now has its own two dedicated channels – Racing UK and At The Races – so perhaps that had stolen some of Channel 4’s audience.

To be honest, I always thought Channel 4 leaned too heavily towards the betting side of racing, which is understandable as it’s big business, but they never made much effort to show the other side of the sport.

As I’ve said in my previous columns, racing has become too heavily reliant on the gambling culture rather than the passion for the sport – and believe me we’ve survived for many years through fans’ passion for racing.

Maybe ITV should bring back more human interaction rather than just all betting, betting, betting. I’d like to see them make some documentaries about the beautiful side of the sport, there aren’t enough of them around. It is still the ‘sport of kings’ after all.

So that’s what I’d like to see from ITV – something different, something with a bit of passion and something that can get younger people interested in racing again, instead of just dangling offers from bookmakers in front of the viewers.

Elsewhere, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Lizzie Kelly on becoming the first woman to win a grade one race on board Tea for Two at Kempton just before the turn of the year.

Many of you will already have seen it, but for those who didn’t, this unique 'jockey cam' footage of her is well worth a watch.

She had a lot of good press for her feat and rightly so. I hope it serves her well.

Finally, Richard Johnson – one of my closest pals from the weighing room – reached the 3,000 winners mark recently, a phenomenal achievement.

Richard is such a normal guy, you wouldn’t believe how modest he is. He doesn’t look at himself as an inspirational jockey at all, but he really is.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes on to surpass AP McCoy’s career total.