‘He has always been a fantastic trainer’ – Johnson full of praise for long-standing ally Hobbs

Former champion jockey Richard Johnson paid tribute to Philip Hobbs after Zanza gave the Minehead trainer his 3,000th winner when taking the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury.

Johnson spent over two decades with Hobbs, partnering the likes of Rooster Booster to success in the Champion Hurdle, Flagship Uberalles in the Champion Chase and Captain Chris in the Arkle.

“It is a huge achievement – 3,000 winners is a huge amount, whichever way you look at it,” said Johnson.

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“I don’t know how many have done it before, but there can’t have been too many.

“Philip’s consistency was always the thing when I was riding. I know he has had a couple of quiet years, but he was always sending out winners week-in week-out, throughout the year.

“For me, trying to be champion jockey, having the support of someone like him was always amazing.

“He has always been a fantastic trainer, whether it was at Newton Abbot in the winter or at Cheltenham in March.”

Hobbs was an accomplished rider himself, partnering 160 winners in a 10-year career, landing races like The Black and White Gold Cup at Ascot, the Killiney Novice Chase and Midlands Grand National on such good horses as West Tip and Artifice.

He started training in August 1985 with only six horses and quickly established himself as one of the country’s leading jumps trainers.

His first major success came with Bonanza Boy’s Challow Novices’ Hurdle win in 1987, while Kibreet gave the 67-year-old the first of his 19 Cheltenham Festival winners when taking the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase in 1996.

Hobbs and Flagship Uberalles at his Sandhill Stables
Hobbs and Flagship Uberalles at his Sandhill Stables (David Davies/PA)

“His record speaks for itself,” added Johnson. “He was a fantastic man to deal with and it’s huge congratulations to him. It is testament to what he has achieved and there will be plenty more winners ahead.”

Hobbs is not one to court publicity. Though considered and courteous, he does not take fools gladly.

Yet Johnson insists his measured approach is a strength that has endeared him to those who work for him.

“As a jockey, dealing with him was one of the nicest parts of the job, as he never got over-excited but he never got overly depressed, either,” added the four-time champion.

Captain Chris and Richard Johnson (left) took the 2011 Arkle for Hobbs
Captain Chris and Richard Johnson (left) took the 2011 Arkle for Hobbs (David Jones/PA)

“Obviously he was disappointed when they didn’t run well, but he was always very level.

“He was a brilliant man to work for and a thorough professional.

“Whatever he said to you was always spot on. He reads his horses very well and no matter what a horse’s ability was, he trained them with that in mind and got the best out of them, which is not easy to do.

“It is a team effort. All the way through, from Johnson White, who has been his assistant for almost forever.

“He has obviously had lots of good staff and people through his hands over the years, so it is a big team effort. Sarah, his wife, has also always been key part of the team as well.”

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