Johnson enthused as Village Vic eyes the festival

Richard Johnson on Village Vic winning at Wetherby.
Richard Johnson on Village Vic winning at Wetherby.
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Richard johnson believes Wetherby winner Village Vic could be a Ryanair Chase contender at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The Philip Hobbs-trained horse remains unbeaten from four starts over fences this season, a winning run which began in the Bobby Renton Chase at the West Yorkshire track in October.

Yet it was the manner of Village Vic’s front-running win at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day which so enthused Johnson, who recorded his 3,000th career winner at Ludlow on Monday and stands on the brink of a first jockeys’ championship.

The horse is clearly back to his best after injury setbacks and the gelding’s exuberant running style evokes memories of Fair Along who ran with distinction in the same colours for owner Alan Peterson.

Writing on his blog, Johnson said: “Village Vic was great at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. He made a mistake at the second which was purely down to the ground.

“If it was better ground, he’d have winged the fence, but he just got stuck in the mud a little and went through it instead. It was another positive step forward for him.

“To win four on the bounce as a handicapper is fantastic. He’s a real improver and it just goes to show how well Philip’s string is at the moment.

“At some point the handicapper is going to slow him down, but I’d still have thought a handicap would be his next assignment.

“He’s a very straightforward horse, jumps really well and two-and-a-half miles is the right trip. He might get an entry in the Ryanair, as you never know what can happen, but we’ll see where we are after his next race. There’s lots to look forward to.”