From the Commentary Box – Monday, 17th March 2014

“I’d get beaten on Phar Lap in a maiden race at the moment”.

I had a giggle when I heard Chris Johnson say that to Des Coppins on radio last Friday.

Johnson was trying to explain to Coppins on Radio Trackside his recent run of “outs” which had seen him go 80 odd mounts without success.

“Sometimes you have a run of success where everything you do is the right thing and sometimes things just go from bad to worse” Johnson told Coppins.

Johnson has been a prodigious talent in the saddle for 30 years and his numerous big race wins in a career which has seen him scale great heights as a jockey reinforce that.

He has had a colourful career and has often found himself in trouble with racing officialdom resulting in lengthy breaks from riding.

Indeed Johnson looked lost forever to racing when he drifted away from race riding for a few years.

However, much to the delight of many, he made a comeback to riding and quickly re established himself as one of the very best in the business.

Johnson is a polarising figure.

His distinctive riding style is revered by some and loathed by others.

Johnson has a high in the saddle riding style and rarely resorts to vigorous riding in close finishes.

He instead relies on his balance and impeccable judge of pace to coax the best out of his mounts.

It is a style which has landed him in trouble throughout his career with the suggestion a little more vigour would have helped especially in close finishes.

With well in excess of 1000 winners to his credit, I’m inclined to think Johnson knows what he’s doing!!

And it was there for everyone to see again at Trentham last Saturday.

Johnson broke his drought when kicking home two feature race winners, Sir Gus and Natuzzi, displaying his wonderful horsemanship skills to all and sundry.

Sir Gus, a 30 to 1 outsider in the NZ St Leger caused a major surprise when scoring narrowly from Media World and Full Monty.

It was a performance which had many shaking their heads in disbelief.

After sitting outside the leader and over racing most of the way, Sir Gus continued to fight strongly to the line.

He was clearly headed by Media World with 100m to go but somehow Johnson was able to coax that little bit extra out of him.

The win aboard Natuzzi in the Lightning Handicap over 1200m was vintage Johnson.

Sent out favourite for the race, Natuzzi settled well back in the field as per usual.

As the field swung into the home straight, Natuzzi was spotting the leaders several lengths with a wall of horses in front of him.

Johnson bided his time until the gaps appeared and weaved his mount through near the inside to be challenging with 150m to go.

Over the concluding stages, Natuzzi dashed away for a comfortable victory from Whosyourmaster and Alley Oop.

Both rides were in stark contrast to each other but they again showed that class is permanent.

And that “Magic” Johnson is back!!


It was a quiet day for Cambridge trained runners at Trentham last Saturday.

The sole success was Popeye Braggins who scored fresh up from the Tony Pike and Mark Donoghue stable.

Minor placings were recorded by Tornado Alley for Ralph Manning, Media World (Stephen Marsh), Zurella (Shaune Ritchie) and Rock Diva (Pike /Donoghue).

At Te Rapa, Sheez All Heart scored for Chris Wood and his apprentice Victoria Gatu and Full Count won for Roger James and Mark Hills.

I’ll catch you next week.