Richard Johnson’s hopes of retaining the jump jockeys’ title were hanging in the balance on Tuesday after the four-times champion suffered a suspected broken arm after being unseated from his mount Westend Story in a novice chase at Exeter.
Johnson started the day three winners behind Brian Hughes in the title race and Westend Story set off as the 11-8 favourite to beat three rivals, but he made a bad mistake at the sixth fence and gave Johnson little chance to stay in the saddle. He then appeared to be kicked near his left shoulder by Fox Pro shortly after hitting the ground.
Johnson was clearly in pain afterwards and spent at least a minute on the ground before being helped to his feet by medical staff. He was then taken to Exeter General Hospital for further examination.
Hughes, who has 114 winners so far this season, was a narrow second-favourite at the start of the day to become only the third rider to be crowned champion since Tony McCoy began his 20-year reign in 1996.
The Professional Jockeys’ Association’s website suggests that the average length of time between riders suffering a fracture to their arm and returning to racing is 62 days. If Johnson’s injury proves to be as serious as feared, he would also be likey to miss the Cheltenham Festival, which opens on 10 March, while his participation in the Grand National at Aintree in early April could also be in doubt.