Chris Johnson is making a brief comeback over fences in a bid to improve his prospects of winning another New Zealand Jockeys' Premiership.
Johnson will ride Delacroix in the Wingatui Function Centre 2200 at Wingatui today and also in the open hurdles at Riverton on May 20.
The move was aimed at qualifying Johnson for highweights, said Johnson's partner, Belinda Middlewood.
"John and Karen Parsons wanted him to ride Delacroix in last year's Grand National, but he wasn't keen at that stage."
Under the rules, jockeys are only eligible to ride in highweights if they have ridden in a steeplechase or hurdle race in the period from January 1 the previous year.
Johnson hasn't competed in a jumps race for almost six years, since he rode the Jeff Lynds-trained Conquistador when he was pulled up in the Great Northern Hurdles in September 2012.
Four days earlier he recorded his last jumps win aboard Silk 'N' Satin for John Sargent at the Wingatui meeting.
Johnson is an accomplished hurdles jockey, having 55 wins from 260 rides, though he has competed in just one steeplechase in which his mount fell.
His jumps CV includes three Grand National Hurdles triumphs, plus victories in the Great Western Hurdles, Great Northern Hurdles and Wellington Hurdles.
Johnson rode Delacroix on the flat for a win and eight placings, and watched on as the son of Zabeel made the grade as a hurdler with five wins and four placings in 13 races.
Delacroix beat just two home when resuming at the Riverton meeting in a flat race this month.
"He's improved with the run and should go better on Tuesday," Karen Parsons said. "He'll be ready to go over fences at Riverton."
Johnson has kicked home almost 2300 winners in New Zealand and the 54-year-old picked up his second New Zealand Jockeys' Premiership last season, 21 years after he first won it in 1995-96.
- NZ Racing Desk