Johnson at brilliant best in Winter Cup triumph

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Central Districts raider Dez took out Saturday’s Group 3 Winning Edge Presentations 122nd Winter Cup (1600m) at Riccarton courtesy of a peach of a ride from master jockey Chris Johnson.

The lightly raced eight-year old, who was having just his seventeenth career start, lifted in the final 100m under the urgings of Johnson to nail fellow North Islander Rosewood right on the post to claim the victory. The Simon Wilson-trained and part-owned Zed gelding, who had finished an unlucky third in the race 12 months ago, had looked a forlorn chance to even make the trip south earlier this winter after a run of poor form saw him beat just four horses home in his first three starts of a new campaign.

Wilson persevered and with Johnson legged aboard for the first time, Dez produced a revitalised effort to score well at Otaki last weekend to confirm his participation. Under a typically patient Johnson ride, Dez settled nicely in midfield before driving through the middle of the pack as a slew of runners fanned wide early in the run home.

Rosewood, who had snuck through on the inner before angling to the middle of the track, had established what looked like a winning break at the 200m but Johnson never gave up on Dez who chased bravely to collar Rosewood and score his biggest victory. “We’ve had a few problems, but we sorted them out and he has definitely hit top form at the right time,” Wilson said. “I was happy with him as he had travelled well and was eating up but you just never know on the day. “Being by Zed we knew he would handle the conditions and he had a great rider on board. “I actually can’t see that well as I’m a little bit colour blind but when he turned in it looked like he was coming through with a good run and it was a fantastic ride by Chris.”

Johnson was his typically relaxed self as he described proceedings about the race he last won back in 1991 on Robyn’s Affair. “He travelled nice in the race although when we moved into second halfway down, he was flat out,” Johnson said. “The second horse (Rosewood) kept kicking and he (Dez) just lifted that last bit. “I wasn’t sure if we had got up as I’ve had a run of seconds and thought I was second again. “He’s had a few issues in this prep, but I had a look at his run last year which was huge and on his last start it looked like he was back in that form.”

The victory made it win number seven for Dez who spent two and a half years on the side-lines with tendon issues after winning two of his first three starts back in 2015.

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