Cheltenham Festival: Five Richard Johnson crowd-pleasers

We celebrate the moments where 'Dicky' had Prestbury Park punters purring over the years with his short-priced winners.

Everyone loves leaving Cheltenham after picking a winner or two and the tough-as-old-boots Richard Johnson has provided a regular supply of winnings to favourite backers.

Here are some of his most memorable successes priced at 5/1 and under at the Cheltenham Festival.

2000 Cheltenham Gold Cup: Looks Like Trouble

Although Looks Like Trouble didn't race as favourite, the 9/2 starting price was more than short enough to cause mischief for the bookmakers.

This was a ride that epitomised the resilience of Richard Johnson, at the time a precocious 22-year-old who would not take no for an answer on his Noel Chance-trained horse. His mount nodded on landing over the 10th fence and had to be given reminders with the whip as the free-running Gloria Victis looked to be well in control of the Cheltenham showpiece.

Almost like a light switch, Johnson had Looks Like Trouble back in the race, pressuring Gloria Victis and future King George VI winner Florida Pearl.

It was Johnson on Looks Like Trouble, who jumped the second-last best with Gloria Victis an unfortunate faller and, after drawing alongside Florida Pearl, he produced the rough diamond of the race to nail the last and draw clear for a five-length success.

After claiming his first Gold Cup, Johnson went on to marry Fiona Chance, the daughter of Looks Like Trouble's trainer Noel Chance, and the horse retired to become a much-loved Johnson family pet.

"I gained a wife and a father-in-law and everything else out of it," Johnson told The Guardian, while happy punters gained a good few quid from backing the popular choice.

2002 Queen Mother Champion Chase: Flagship Uberalles

The German phrase 'uber alles' translates as 'above all' and it was Flagship Uberalles that conquered his rivals - and the bookies - in this race.

Starting as 7/4 favourite, Flagship Uberalles had to navigate a strong field, including reigning champ Edredon Bleu, ridden by AP McCoy, and hardy Paul Nicholls outsider Cenkos.

Johnson, the master of getting his horses into a rhythm, was able to ignore the drama of faller Latalomne and eat into Cenkos' lead to guide Flagship Uberalles to an ultra-game three-length win from Native Upmanship in second.

"Flagship Uberalles wasn't the fastest two-mile chaser but he saw out the trip really well," Johnson said. "The best two-mile chasers make it easy, jumping at speed and getting into a great rhythm. On a good horse that can just gallop and jump flat out, it is easy for the passenger."

As the jubilant Johnson raised his whip in celebration in the stars-and-stripes silks of the horse's owners, it was the punters who were starry-eyed and cashing in at the Cheltenham rails' bookmakers.

2003 Champion Hurdle: Rooster Booster

Roosters aren't known for their flying skills but this one could really soar.

Starting at a price of 9/2, it was Richard Johnson looking to get a tune out of the Philip Hobbs-trained Rooster Booster and to get past favourite Rhinestone Cowboy, ridden by Norman Williamson.

Johnson was content to sit in midfield, only producing the great grey to challenge at three out in the Champion Hurdle. He stalked the leader Intersky Falcon over the second-last before putting on the turbos and propelling Rooster Booster to a magnificent 11-length win from the toiling Westender in second.

Rooster Booster en route to victory in the 2003 Champion Hurdle
Rooster Booster en route to victory in the 2003 Champion Hurdle

For Rooster Booster, for so long a place contender rather than a big-race winner, the win was just reward for his stamina and class. His jockey Johnson took the plaudits too for a well-judged ride which left Rhinestone Cowboy back in third.

When Rooster Booster died at the age of 11 in 2005, Johnson was devastated by the news.

"He gave great pleasure not only to myself but to the owner and to everyone connected with him," he told the Irish Examiner. "He gave me one of the highlights of my career when winning the Champion Hurdle. It was a fantastic day and I'll never forget him."

2014 Pertemps Final: Fingal Bay

Talk about a tough race. The 23-runner Pertemps Final Hurdle of 2014 was a heart-in-mouth but, ultimately, happy moment for backers of Richard Johnson favourites.

9/2 favourite Fingal Bay had the tough task of defying top weight of 11st 12lb around the three miles at Cheltenham and he looked to have done the hard work coming up to the last.

Fingal Bay jumped the final hurdle neck and neck with 20/1 outsider Southfield Theatre but made a hash of it, handing the Paul Nicholls-trained horse the initiative.

Yet Johnson is the epitome of 'it ain't over till it's over' and he rallied Fingal Bay in a thrilling five-horse finish to get up by a nose.

The win was a dogged one for Johnson and the jockey was in the dog-house with the bookies as queues began to snake for punters collecting their winnings on the favourite.

"He's an amazing horse," he told the Irish Independent. "We have always thought the world of him. He's come back from an injury last year, Philip gave him every chance and he's been well rewarded today."

2017 Triumph Hurdle: Defi Du Seuil

The combination of Richard Johnson, owner JP McManus, trainer Philip Hobbs and Defi De Seuil proved to be a terrifying one for bookmakers in the 2017 Triumph Hurdle.

Richard Johnson celebrates winning the 2017 Triumph Hurdle on Defi Du Seuil
Richard Johnson celebrates winning the 2017 Triumph Hurdle on Defi Du Seuil

Such was Johnson's confidence in the 5/2 favourite, he was able to hold the horse up at the back of the field for a good portion of the race, before producing his mount for contention at three out.

Johnson sat still in the saddle, in the green and gold McManus silks, with Defi De Seuil cruising and hit the front with just a couple of pats at the final hurdle.

The Cheltenham roar was in full effect as Johnson led Defi Du Seuil to a going-away five-length victory. Mega Fortune was an apt name for the Gordon Elliott horse back in second as the bookmakers lost a super sum on the well-backed favourite.

"He was the best horse in the race and he jumped and travelled," Johnson told Timeform. "He was always going well and I was always happy with him. I knew he'd stay and that I could pick him up as I wished. I was a passenger all the way to be honest."

Check out Paddy Power's Cheltenham odds for Tuesday's races here.

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