Danielle Johnson made the best possible return to raceday riding after an injury enforced nine-month break away from the track when she guided talented three-year-old Bobby Dazzler to victory at New Plymouth on Saturday.
Johnson has been on the side-lines since mid-November when she sustained three fractures to her collar bone in a race fall at Ruakaka. Sporting a metal plate and six screws in the troublesome injury, Johnson had built up her fitness in recent months with plenty of gym work, running and regular trackwork and trial rides.
After getting her eye in with two mounts at Pukekohe on Wednesday, Johnson was at her bustling best as she led throughout on the Stephen Marsh-trained Bobby Dazzler, who was registering his third career victory.
With the 1400m covered in a pedestrian 1.32.90 on the testing Heavy11 surface you could have excused Johnson for feeling the effects of the effort required to kick home the Zed gelding.
“Actually, I felt pretty good afterwards even though it was a really tough track out there,” Johnson said.
“It helps when you have a horse who can handle those conditions and he got through it really well.
“My fitness is good as I haven’t been sitting around at all in the last few months. I have had trial rides and do regular trackwork while I try to either get to the gym or go for a run on most days.
“It just feels great to be back and to get a winner was a big thrill.”
Despite the success, Johnson will not be able to add to her season’s tally as she heads back to the surgeon on Tuesday to have the plate and screws removed from her collarbone.
“My surgeon told me I didn’t have to have the plate and screws removed but if I had another fall it might complicate any injury I suffered, so I’m going to have them out on Tuesday,” she said.
“I will take a few days off so I won’t have any more rides this season.
“Now that I’m back I am really looking forward to riding in the new season. I don’t have any specific goals although the 100-winner mark is something I like to try and achieve in any given season.
“I’m certainly hungry for success now that I’m back and I’m just lucky to have a strong stable like Stephen’s behind me so hopefully we can kick some goals again this year.”