Cheltenham Festival 2020: Richard Johnson Set to Return and Ante Post Bets Up 40%

Jump Horse SilhouetteThe powers of recovery that some people have are enough to make you green with envy.

Many mere mortals are wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa for a week when they are struck down with man flu, and yet Richard Johnson has defied medical expectation by returning to the saddle barely a month after breaking his arm.

Johnson will make his return on Thursday, a mere 38 days after suffering the break in a fall at Exeter.

And that gives him an outside chance of successfully retaining his champion’s jockey crown, which he has held for four years on the spin.

The 42-year-old is now 19 wins behind the current leader Brian Hughes – he was just three adrift at the time of his fall, and while he is realistic about his chances of overhauling his rival he is remaining optimistic.

“Realistically, I know I’m still going to be up against it. But there is that chance,” Johnson said.

He has dominated the champion jockey stakes ever since the retirement of his old adversary AP McCoy, who won the title for a staggering 20 years in a row – Johnson was runner-up in 16 of those.

But as soon as the Irishman retired, it was always likely that Johnson would go from bridesmaid to bride, and now he is determined not to relinquish his grip on a title that he is rightfully very proud of.

A return to action at either Ludlow or Musselburgh is likely, and a hectic few weeks will then lead into the Cheltenham Festival, where he will take a number of high-profile rides.

Is there still time for Johnson to reel in another champion jockey trophy?

Punters in the Midst of Festival Fever

March 10th on Grass

It goes without saying that Cheltenham Festival is the most eagerly-anticipated four days of the racing calendar as far as punters are concerned.

A large section of the cash that flows into the market is ‘mug money’ or that of sentimental punters, but 2020 so far has show a different pattern in trend.

It has been reported that this year’s Festival has seen almost 40% bets placed in the ante-post markets compared to the same period (January 1 to February 18) in 2019.

That continues the upward trend from 2018 to ’19 too, which suggests there is real appetite for getting early prices on the likes of Altior, Tiger Roll and Benie Des Dieux, while Paisley Park and Envoi Allen have proven to be the most backed horses so far in the Stayers’ Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle respectively with more than 10% of ante post money combined.