Tag Archive for: Henry Daly

Cheltenham and Doncaster possibilities for Hillcrest

Connections of the huge Hillcrest are eyeing either a return to Cheltenham for the Classic Novices’ Hurdle on Trials Day on January 29 or the River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster on the same day for his next run.

Having made light work of his opposition in a Listed contest at the Prestbury Park track on New Year’s Day, trainer Henry Daly is conscious that he does not ask too much of the seven-year-old, who is unbeaten in three novice hurdles this season.

The massive horse – nicknamed Rodney – earned Cheltenham Festival quotes after seeing off Nicky Henderson’s highly-touted I Am Maximus in the extended two-and-a-half-mile Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

“Hillcrest is absolutely fine after the race – no problem at all,” said Daly. “What he is going to do next is a very leading question.

“There is an ongoing debate as to what the next plan is. There is the race at Cheltenham on the 29th, similar to the race he ran in the other day, a two-and-a-half-mile Listed race. There is also the same race on the same day – the River Don, a three-mile novice hurdle.

“Quite honestly, it is a bit of a toss-up and there is also the possibility of not running in either of those races.

“He wants nice ground. Good to soft would be fine. He won his bumper in good to soft at Doncaster and handles it perfectly well. It is not an issue. It was the same at Aintree first time this year.

“He is a big boy and like most of those, they don’t take a whole lot of hammer, so we are very conscious of that and we are trying to do the best thing without making a balls of it, really. Such is a trainer’s lot!”

Hillcrest, who runs in the colours of the late British billionaire Trevor Hemmings, stands at 18 hands (around 6ft to the shoulder), and barely came out of a canter at Cheltenham last time.

That win earned him quotes of 16-1 for both the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with Coral but Daly says he is not leaning one way or the other.

He admitted: “I keep being told to think ‘Cheltenham’ for him. It is an interesting conundrum, being told to think things.

“It is pretty obvious the Festival has to be on the radar, doesn’t it? But it is not the be-all and end-all.

“When you start leaning, you tend to fall. Therefore it is better to be vertical and keep it that way.”

Hillcrest profiting from Hemmings’ patience

Henry Daly has credited the patience of the late Trevor Hemmings after Hillcrest’s impressive success at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

The seven-year-old was an eyecatching winner of the Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, strolling around Prestbury Park to beat Nicky Henderson’s I Am Maximus by two lengths.

The victory was a fourth consecutive win for the gelding, who was narrowly denied success on his racecourse debut when beaten by just a nose in a Doncaster bumper but has since won a Wetherby bumper and three times over hurdles.

“He’s done nothing but please us, if they all ran five times and won four, you’d be quite pleased,” said Daly.

“He’s going along nicely. We hope he’s a good horse and we’re beginning to find out, aren’t we?”

Daly was pleased to see the gelding take well to the Cheltenham hill and felt he was not particularly hard pushed in claiming his first success at Listed level.

“It was interesting (to see him take to Cheltenham), more so than a relief. It’s always interesting find out if a horse can go on an undulating track and he obviously does.

“I don’t think he had a particularly hard race, getting there to win, he found it relatively easy.”

Hillcrest is owned by Exors of the late Hemmings and due to his towering build he has required more time to develop than a comparatively compact type of horse.

Henry Daly has credited the late Trevor Hemmings with showing plenty of patience
Henry Daly has credited the late Trevor Hemmings with showing plenty of patience (David Davies/PA)

Hemmings was willing to allow him to mature physically and it is that patience that Daly believes will prove essential to the gelding developing into the archetypal chaser the businessman became associated with throughout his long connection with National Hunt racing.

“He’s all of those things in spades and it’s very lucky that someone like Trevor owned him because he has given him the time necessary to get to where we’ve got so far,” the trainer said.

“It’s undoubtedly been crucial to him, it obviously helps now that’s he’s mature enough to do what he’s doing. He’s not complicated, he just needed that time.”

Hemmings’ racing interests are still overseen by his racing manager Mick Meagher, someone Daly will have a conversation with before Hillcrest’s next steps are planned.

“We’ll see how we go from here, I’ll speak to Mick Meagher and we’ll see what we do next,” he said.

Hillcrest lands Listed honours in Cheltenham opener

Hillcrest made just about all the running to remain unbeaten this season in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – the first race at Cheltenham in 2022.

Trained by Henry Daly, the seven-year-old lacks nothing in size and clearly has his fair share of ability as well.

Having won at Aintree and Wetherby this season, he was sent off a 3-1 chance to handle the step up to Listed company.

Richard Patrick bounced him out into an early lead and he appeared to be going well within himself for much of the contest.

The Nicky Henderson-trained favourite I Am Maximus, who had sweated up beforehand and raced on and off the bridle, looked a threat entering the straight but Hillcrest towered above him.

While the favourite briefly hit the front for a few strides, Patrick had not asked his mount for everything and when he did there was still plenty left in the tank and he pulled two lengths clear.

Betfair introduced the winner at 25-1 for the Ballymore in March and 16-1 for the Albert Bartlett.

“He’s taller than my measuring stick will go, and when he arrived at the yard he weighed in at 693 kilos. Most of mine are 520 (kg), which puts it into perspective,” said Daly.

“He’s big and he’s very talented. He’s had a lob round and Richard never had to pick up his stick.

“He doesn’t have to make the running and he’s got a great mind on him. I just wanted to see what he was like on an undulating track.

“When you think what a chaser looks like, it will look like him. He’s a real Trevor (Hemmings) horse.”

Gary Moore’s Full Back stayed on dourly to win the New Four Eighty Restaurant At Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chase.

Full Back (left) jumps the last in front
Full Back (left) jumps the last in front (David Davies/PA)

Sent off the 9-2 joint-favourite, he may have been slightly fortunate as Venetia Williams’ Destinee Royale was going great guns in front before coming down before the turn for home.

The Wolf stayed on after the last to challenge but was still two and a quarter lengths down at the line.

“I thought he ran well in the Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy) in which he made a few careless mistakes, but the slower ground helped him with his jumping today,” said Moore.

“We had luck on our side as it started raining heavy when we reached Lambourn and I rang the owner about pulling him out, but he said we should run.

“It’s good for him to get his head in front. He has one or two issues but they didn’t show themselves today.”

Vienna Court stayed on strongly to win for the Twiston-Davies team
Vienna Court stayed on strongly to win for the Twiston-Davies team (David Davies/PA)

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Vienna Court (10-1) travelled supremely well before staying on strongly to win the Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase.

With plenty of pace on as Coole Cody once again attempted to make all, Sam Twiston-Davies was able to drop the mare out early on.

She appeared going ominously well coming down the hill but then had to be game to see off the attentions of Paul Nicholls’ Simply The Betts, winning by a length and three-quarters.

“After her previous win we had to decide whether to go for another mares’ race or a decent handicap,” said the winning trainer.

“We called it right, but Sam was last early on and when he switched her on, he couldn’t stop her.

“She’s still a novice and will be odds-on next time, but if she wins again we will need to think about the mares’ chase at the Festival.

“It’s always good to win here. I’ve had more winners here than at any other racecourse.”

Amateur David Maxwell got his fractions spot on as Dolphin Square (28-1) reeled in Kansas City Chief after the last in the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle.

“It’s a fabulous place – just look at it – an amazing place like it is today and in March. How often does a middle-aged man get to come here and do this?” said Maxwell.

“But I know this horse well. I’ve ridden him since his pointing days and at the top of the hill I thought if I can hold onto him, he might just get home.”

Paddy Brennan was another to come with a late rattle in the concluding bumper as Fergal O’Brien’s Poetic Music (7-2 favourite) maintained her unbeaten record.

McCoy and Walsh lead tributes to Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson’s fellow great jockeys Sir Anthony McCoy and Ruby Walsh led the tributes to the four-time champion following his retirement.

McCoy has repeatedly insisted he would never have set the records he managed in his career without Johnson pushing him all the way.

When McCoy retired after his 20 jockeys’ titles, it left the way clear for perennial runner-up Johnson to finally win the crown, and he managed another three before injury and the pandemic halted him in his tracks last season.

McCoy told Great British Racing: “On a professional level I probably got to know him better than anyone – and he’s a brilliant man to be around, a fantastic jockey and unbelievably competitive.

“He also has a great work ethic and is the fairest jockey you could ever ride against, so he has deserved all of his success.

“As I’ve said many times, having Richard to compete against for all of those years definitely made me a better jockey. But however good a jockey you think he is, he’s an even better person.”

McCoy also earlier tweeted: “Sometimes those who challenge us the most teach us the best.

“You did both to me for over 20 years – I will be forever grateful to you, thanks buddy. When you go home tonight, look in the mirror you’ll see what a champion looks like. Enjoy your retirement.”

Walsh made his admiration clear too.

He said: “What everyone knows about Richard Johnson is what an excellent jockey he is and what a great asset he is to racing.

“But what they might not know so much is that he is also a hard man, who has toughness and determination and an incredible pain threshold, as well as being a thoroughly decent human being.”

Johnson enjoyed many great days alongside trainer Henry Daly and still rode out for him on a weekly basis.

Daly believes it will be “impossible” to replace Johnson, who rode big winners for him on the likes of Mighty Man, Behrajan, Hand Inn Hand and Young Spartacus.

“It’s impossible to give a ‘quick tribute’ about Richard, I could go on forever,” said Daly.

“He’s been part of the fixtures and fittings here for 23 years. Every Tuesday morning he turns up – even when I don’t ask him to!

“His work ethic was unbelievable, and his attitude to the job was just incredible. It’s so hard to think of the right words that sum up a man like this.

“You will read endless quotes about what a nice guy he is, but that is because he is. I can honestly say in 23 years we never had a crossed word – which is astonishing because I’m a grumpy git!

“He never says no to anybody. It really is the mark of the man.

“I have a picture on my wall of when Mighty Man won as a novice at Aintree – where he was very good – and Dicky is up between his ears, that just sums them both up. They were a match made in heaven.

“People will say he leaves a void, but for Philip Hobbs and myself we won’t fill it – we will change what we do because of him. It’s impossible to replace him.”

Four-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson is another who is grateful to have seen Johnson’s dedication at first hand.

“He spent all those years in AP’s shadow, but if anything he has developed further as a jockey since AP’s retirement,” said Henderson.

“The input that he gives you is enormous, and his work ethic is unbelievable – he’ll go to Timbuktu for a ride. He’s tireless and a true asset to racing.”

Johnson’s weighing-room colleagues were also generous in their praise.

Tom Scudamore tweeted: “Simply the finest bloke and friend you could wish to have. When I grow up, I want to be like Richard Johnson.”

Aidan Coleman said: “Richard Johnson has been my hero from when he spoke to me on my first ever ride, can’t find the words to describe what he means to me from both a personal and professional point of view.”

Sam Twiston-Davies said: “Can’t believe the news, @dickyjohnson77 not just a legend but a hero to so many. Not just one of the best in the world, but also one of the nicest. Happy retirement #hero.”

Harry Skelton, who is battling to be champion jockey this year, added: “Words wouldn’t be able to describe how good a person Richard Johnson is. He is the ultimate role model to any human in general life, not just a jockey. Happy retirement @dickyjohnson77 #champion.”

Daryl Jacob said: “It’s been an absolute privilege to ride against ⁦@dickyjohnson77 throughout my career. A wonderful jockey and a real gentleman. Wishing him all the very best in the future.”

Jonjo O’Neill jnr, last year’s champion conditional, said: “The ultimate role model to anyone growing up. So determined, yet so humble and gracious.

“People like him just aren’t made every day. Strong as an ox, the ultimate champion. Just an unbelievable man.”

Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Paul Struthers added in a statement: “Dickie took over as Jumps President following AP McCoy’s retirement and has been actively involved in the PJA ever since.

“He is the nicest, kindest, most professional jockey I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with – and on both a personal and professional level, I am delighted he is retiring  from the saddle on his own terms.

“I cannot think of a single person who would have a bad word to say about him.

“Yet while there’s  a common saying that nice guys don’t win, Dickie has been at the top of his profession for close to  30 years – and only someone as remarkable as AP McCoy prevented him from being champion jump jockey more than the four times he was.

“He was the most amazing role model to other jockeys – incredibly professional in every aspect and a great communicator.

“Like so many senior jockeys before him, Dickie didn’t look out for just himself. He was passionate about the plight of all jockeys and was an excellent and active president of the PJA.

“He’s devoted himself to the racing industry and thoroughly deserves to enjoy a happy  retirement from the saddle with his family. We and his colleagues will miss him terribly.”

Old rival McCoy leads tributes to retiring Johnson

Sir Anthony McCoy expressed his gratitude to his old friend and rival Richard Johnson following the retirement of the four-times champion jockey.

McCoy has repeatedly insisted he would never have set the records he managed in his career without Johnson pushing him all the way.

When McCoy retired, it left the way clear for perennial runner-up Johnson to finally win the crown, and he managed another three before injury and the pandemic halted him in his tracks last season.

McCoy tweeted: “Sometimes those who challenge us the most teach us the best.

“You did both to me for over 20 years – I will be forever grateful to you, thanks buddy. When you go home tonight, look in the mirror you’ll see what a champion looks like. Enjoy your retirement.”

Johnson enjoyed many great days alongside trainer Henry Daly and still rode out for him on a weekly basis.

Daly believes it will be “impossible” to replace Johnson, who rode big winners for him on the likes of Mighty Man, Behrajan, Hand Inn Hand and Young Spartacus.

“It’s impossible to give a ‘quick tribute’ about Richard, I could go on forever,” said Daly.

“He’s been part of the fixtures and fittings here for 23 years. Every Tuesday morning he turns up – even when I don’t ask him to!

“His work ethic was unbelievable, and his attitude to the job was just incredible. It’s so hard to think of the right words that sum up a man like this.

“You will read endless quotes about what a nice guy he is, but that is because he is. I can honestly say in 23 years we never had a crossed word – which is astonishing because I’m a grumpy git!

“He never says no to anybody. It really is the mark of the man.

“I have a picture on my wall of when Mighty Man won as a novice at Aintree – where he was very good – and Dicky is up between his ears, that just sums them both up. They were a match made in heaven.

“People will say he leaves a void, but for Philip Hobbs and myself we won’t fill it – we will change what we do because of him. It’s impossible to replace him.”

Johnson’s weighing room colleagues were also generous in their praise.

Tom Scudamore tweeted: “Simply the finest bloke and friend you could wish to have. When I grow up, I want to be like Richard Johnson.”

Fellow jockey Aidan Coleman said: “Richard Johnson has been my hero from when he spoke to me on my first ever ride, can’t find the words to describe what he means to me from both a personal and professional point of view.”

Sam Twiston-Davies said: “Can’t believe the news, @dickyjohnson77 not just a legend but a hero to so many. Not just one of the best in the world, but also one of the nicest. Happy retirement #hero.”

Harry Skelton, who is battling to be champion jockey this year, added: “Words wouldn’t be able to describe how good a person Richard Johnson is. He is the ultimate role model to any human in general life, not just a jockey. Happy retirement @dickyjohnson77 #champion.”

Daryl Jacob said: “It’s been an absolute privilege to ride against ⁦@dickyjohnson77 throughout my career. A wonderful jockey and a real gentleman. Wishing him all the very best in the future.”

Jonjo O’Neill jnr, last year’s champion conditional, said: “The ultimate role model to anyone growing up. So determined, yet so humble and gracious. People like him just aren’t made every day. Strong as an ox, the ultimate champion. Just an unbelievable man.”

Long Distance Hurdle appeals for Honest Vic

Henry Daly may step Honest Vic up in class in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

The Ludlow trainer is favouring the Grade Two on November 27 for his seven-year-old, above the Betfair Best Odds On ITV Races Stayers Handicap Hurdle at Haydock earlier in the month.

Having finished fifth in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on his final start last season, Honest Vic made a winning return to Prestbury Park at his first attempt over three miles last month.

Daly said: “He will be entered in the Grade Three at Haydock – but now he is off a mark of 150, he is more likely to go to Newbury for the Long Distance Hurdle.

“If you look at a lot of those that were in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, apart from Lisnagar Oscar, a lot of the others were rated in the high 140s or early 150s.

“It will be interesting to see in a conditions race where we are, and if we are just a very good handicapper or a conditions class horse.”

Although Daly expected a big first run of the new season from Honest Vic, who is part-owned by his mother Carole,  the manner of the performance took him by surprise.

He said: “It’s a pity he didn’t get a chance to go three miles at Aintree in the spring, but I suppose it is quite funny how things work out.

“(Jockey) Richard Patrick came back in afterwards and said it was almost as if he had jumped in after the third last.

“I was thrilled with the way he jumped and travelled, but the manner of how he did it was very taking. You always hope that will happen, because it makes life a lot easier.”