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Welsh Grand National
Welsh Grand National - Saturday 6th January 2.05pm ITV

Johnson a boost for Big Time Frank at Chepstow

There’s no shortage of runners at Chepstow on Wednesday. Seventeen go to post for the 3m 2f chase at 2.50. Big Time Frank has finished second in all his six starts this season, the last time at Exeter two weeks ago. Can he get his head in front at last? Trainer Polly Gundry has booked Richard Johnson for the mount for the first time. That looks a big plus.

Johnson was out of luck at Cheltenham last week. However, he is sailing towards his fourth championship title. There’s been no-one to touch him since AP McCoy retired four years ago. In years gone by, a jump jockey’s career was a short one. Once considered old at 35, now they’re still going strong in their 40s. Witness Noel Fehily, who will retire at Newbury on Saturday aged 43. Johnson is just two years younger.

Johnson rejects parents’ horse

There are two 12-year-olds in that same Chepstow race including The Last Bridge. Susan Johnson, mother of Richard, trains him. The Last Bridge is the last in the line of home-bred horses reared by the Johnson family. His dam, Celtic Bridge, was of little account in two bumpers and two novice hurdles. However, her dam, Bridge Ash, won a Midlands Grand National. Bridge Ash was also the dam of Derring Bridge, by Derring Rose. Derring Bridge took after his father. When he wanted to go, he was good and won races. But if he wasn’t on a going day, he just did what he liked.

It’s a stamina-laden family. Thus, 3m 2f is right up The Last Bridge’s street. He won twice at Market Rasen at the start of last year. However, he’s been well held on all three outings this term and is a 33-1 shot for the Chepstow race. Richard Johnson has won five times on The Last Bridge but deserts him here for Big Time Frank. It’s worth taking the hint.

About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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