Johnson hits another century

Richard Johnson reached a century of winners for an incredible 18th consecutive season for his long-standing boss Philip Hobbs at Exeter.

Were it not for Tony McCoy, the unassuming Herefordshire jockey would have nearly all the records and a hatful of championships, and McCoy has credited him for ensuring he never becomes complacent.

The 100-winner mark came up aboard when ex-Irish pointer Royal Player (5-1) galloped three lengths ahead in the Maiden Hurdle, carrying the silks of Graham and Diana Whateley, made famous by the likes of Captain Chris.

"I started when I was 19 and I've had 100 every year since then," said Johnson.

"My aim every year is to be champion but the same man gets in the way quite often.

"This year has gone really well and Philip has some young horses that are as nice as we've had for a long time.

"This lad jumped nicely and travelled well and showed all the right signs. Three miles and a fence next year will be the aim but there'll hopefully be some nice races along the way this year.

"I couldn't ride for a better man and he's very loyal. He's also a very good trainer and I get to ride good horses nearly every week, all year round.

"Since I was working for David Nicholson I've learned to try as hard as you can and do what you're told, and I don't mind if it was Plumpton yesterday, here today or Cheltenham in March, they are all very important."

There were several facile winners at the Devon course's replacement meeting, and no more so than when Dr Richard Newland's Pineau De Re (11-4 favourite) did not come off the bridle for Sam Twiston-Davies in the Veterans' Handicap Chase.

"He's 11 but you wouldn't know it, he hasn't got that many miles on the clock and has really good form in the past," said Newland.

"We're hoping to have a spin in the Grand National, so I wanted to win today and go up a few pounds to get in.

"You'll probably see him once more and he might run in the Pertemps Final, but we've got to see if we can get the National first."

John Spearing applied blinkers to the out-of-form Barton Gift, who absolutely bolted up at 3-1 in the 32Red Handicap Chase, carrying the colours of Mercy Rimell.

Umberto D'Olivate (8-1) left behind a disappointing effort at the course last time by storming five lengths clear under Felix de Giles in the 32Red Casino Handicap Chase.

"He'll have to step up in grade now as he's won that well off top weight," said trainer Robert Walford.

"I'm not sure what happened here the last time, I expected him to go well but Felix said he just can't have been right as he wasn't the same horse."

Tom Cannon continues to impress in the saddle and helped David Arbuthnot pick up a winner in the famous 'Rough Quest' colours of Andrew Wates as 11-10 favourite Strollawaynow stayed on well in division one of the 32Red On The App Store "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.

Arbuthnot said: "He's almost certainly a three-miler but with the ground as it is I wanted to stay over two and a half.

"I qualified him for the EBF Final at Sandown, we'd have to see what the ground is like but if it came up good ground he might find one or two too good. He'll go chasing next year."

Tony McCoy was a significant booking by David Pipe in division two, and he helped Knight Of Noir oblige with something in hand.

The 7-1 chance had been on a recovery mission after a thumping fall at Wincanton in November.

The trainer told Racing UK: "It was a horrible fall and he was down for a long time so it was great to see him get back up.

"He'd schooled well at home but jumped only OK today. I think we'll look to run him in another novice with a penalty and then see how he does. He'll be chasing next season."

Admiral Blake (11-2) bankrupted Cash Injection in the Handicap Hurdle.