There’s not many achievements that Richard Johnson hasn’t bagged during his long and illustrious career in racing. From becoming Champion Jockey at just age eighteen in the 1995/6 season, to being awarded an OBE in the new year’s honours for his services to horse racing, he’s done it all. A Grand National win still eludes him though. Here, speaking to Betway, Johnson steers us through the highs and lows of some of his previous Grand National experiences and lays out the hopes and dreams that are part and parcel of his 2019 Grand National ride on Rock The Kasbah.
Night Nurse ran to 35 wins during his racing career that featured flat, hurdle and chase events. Trained in England by Peter Easterby, Night Nurse was originally a National Hunt race horse. The gelding was able to find success no matter what type of race or event he took place in.
Debuting in 1973, Night Nurse’s career didn’t start well. The horse lost six races during the season. If expectations weren’t high after the first year of racing, then the finish of his second season didn’t increase hope of success by much. Night Nurse won just once in six races in 1974. The gelding’s lone victory came at Ripon Racecourse.
Wins would come more often to Night Nurse in the following years. He raced to victory in two of three races in 1975 with wins at the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Irish Sweeps Hurdle. A year later, Night Nurse won the Champion Hurdle for the first of two times, the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the Welsh Champion Hurdle for the first time. In 1977, Night Nurse won his most remembered race at Aintree. Competing in the Templegate Hurdle, Night Nurse won a deadheat against Monksfield.
After being so successful in hurdle competitions, Night Nurse was switched to chasing, and more wins followed. Often ridden by jockey Paddy Broderick, Night Nurse raced until 1983. The duo was one of the most feared on the racetrack and many a race was most likely won before the horses even left the gates. During his racing career, the gelding earned over £170,000 in prize winnings.
In 1983, Night Nurse was retired and lived out his days for the next 15 years. Those final years saw Night Nurse live on the farm of his trainer, Easterby, and later buried on the property. In November 1998, the horse was put down just short of his 28th birthday.
A lot of horse racing betting is focused on securing the best price on the horse you’re backing, with this mostly being due to the fact that they’re so often placed as singles. Horse racing is a sport that can be altered by so many different factors, making it far harder to bet on than other available sports, but when you’re able to find a horse tip that holds value, it’s easier to see why so many would back it as a single.
The primary method of betting on horse singles is through what’s best known as a Nap of the Day. This is a bet that is easily found on horse tipster websites and it’s the benchmark for their success, as it appears every day to show how consistently successful they are with their bets. Naps are a way of identifying the best single horse racing tip throughout all of the current day’s racing action, where the price isn’t a factor that even comes into consideration, with more of a basis on how likely the horse is to win their next race.
Why do punters choose to back a nap?
It’s unlikely that we will ever find a way of determining certain winners in sports that you can bet on due to sport being so unpredictable to judge, but a bet on the nap of the day is the closest you’ll come to getting a bet that is certain to happen. Nap odds won’t tend to be all too high – often only reaching evens at best – but the primary function of a nap is to harness the mostly likely horse to win rather than finding masses of value.
Not only are naps used for betting in singles, but more experienced punters will use individual naps to form doubles, trebles or accumulators, with all selections being equally as likely to win. A nap of the day is one of the easiest horse racing bets to find on the internet, and they should be provided on a daily basis, so if you’re interested in backing a nap, you won’t need to scour the internet from pillar to post in order to find one.
Nap of the day odds
It can’t be stressed enough how irrelevant the odds are for betting on a nap of the day, as the whole point of them is to find the most likely horse to win even if the odds are as short as 1/10. Although this is always applicable for betting on naps, it isn’t enough to stop a lot of people from attempting to back their nap at the best available bookmaker price.
You’re able to enhance your nap odds by merely shopping around on bookmaker websites for the strongest price. If you’re certain over the horse you’ve identified as your nap, you could even back it to win by a few lengths or get behind it at boosted odds where you’re unable to cash out, as each option is used as a way of guaranteeing a bigger price.
In the Like Racing TV on Facebook Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race (3.45) at Ayr on Tuesday, Ribble Valley is likely to encounter slower underfoot conditions than when quickening clear to win a similar race over course and distance by 7 lengths, eased down, on his racecourse debut in November but, that one slight imponderable aside, looks to have plenty going for him. When stepped up Listed level at Cheltenham just over two weeks later, the son of Westerner – who, incidentally, has a 31% winners-runners ratio on soft going – clipped heels with a rival after half a mile, but was outpaced before staying on late to finish sixth of nine, beaten 10¾ lengths. Even so, that form remains respectable in the context of this lesser contest and, with the prevailing soft going possibly more of a help than a hindrance, a return to the winners’ enclosure would be no surprise.
Indeed, one of the other penalised runners in the field, Corrieben Reiver, paid Ribble Valley a compliment when winning at Newcastle last month, having finished third of eight, beaten 13 lengths, behind the selection on his racecourse debut. Alistair Whilans’ five-year-old is 7lb better off at the weights, which should mean that he can, at least, make more of a race of it with Ribble Valley this time. Nevertheless, with professional jockey Brian Hughes retaining the ride on Nicky Richards’ six-year-old – who, of course, remains open to any amount of improvement on just his third start – Ribble Valley remains one to be on the right side for the time being.
Selection: Ayr 3.45 Ribble Valley to win
It’s often said that there’s always a story to be told about the Grand National winner, but, perhaps, none quite so compelling as that of Aldaniti and his jockey Bob Champion. The form book records that, in 1981, Aldaniti, who was sent off at 10/1 second favourite, won the Grand National by 4 lengths from 8/1 favourite Spartan Missile, but the race result was merely the final chapter of a fairy tale that had begun two years earlier.
Owned by the late Nick Embiricos and trained by the late Josh Gifford in Findon, West Sussex, Aldaniti was talented, if injury-prone, steeplechaser. In 1979, he had been placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr before fracturing a hock-bone at Sandown Park in November, which led to another lengthy layoff.
Stable jockey Champion, meanwhile, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in July, 1979, and had undergone a punishing course of chemotherapy. However, both horse and jockey recovered sufficiently to be reunited in the Whitbread Trial Chase at Ascot in February, 1981. Despite starting the outsider of eight, at 14/1, Aldaniti won with something in hand and, two months later, took his chance in the Grand National.
The rest, as they say, is history. Carrying 10st 13lb, Aldaniti landed steeply at the first fence and was untidy at the last, but jumped impeccably in the main to record what had appeared, just months earlier, a hugely unlikely victory. Aldaniti and Champion returned to Aintree again in 1982, but parted company at the first fence. Nevertheless, their almost miraculous win in 1981 remains one of the greatest moments in the illustrious history of the celebrated steeplechase and is commemorated by the 1984 film, ‘Champions’, which starred Aldaniti as himself and the late John Hurt as Bob Champion.