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Russell Johnstone jumps into the spotlight 

Russell Johnstone and Daprice after winning the second leg of the AJTL. © Roger Fitzhardinge

Russell Johnstone and Daprice after winning the second leg of the AJTL

© Roger Fitzhardinge

 

By Equestrian Life

Under lights and before a near-capacity crowd at Sydney International Equestrian Centre, the pressure was on Russell Johnstone. Jump clear, and Team Kiernan Haulage would take home the $40k winners’ cheque for winning the second leg of the Australian Jumping Teams League (AJTL). One rail down would see them settling for second. 

A household name in the industry, Barastoc brand ambassador Russell and his imported warmblood gelding Daprice were not about to let the victory slip away. They produced the double clear, and the SIEC indoor erupted. Team Kiernan Haulage, which also included Jasmine Dennison (U25) and Brooke Campbell, hung on to secure a 3-penalty victory over Team Oaks Sport Horses in a thrilling finish. 

The AJTL is an exciting new concept that is based on the international success of the Global Champions League. There are plans for it to run on free-to-air TV later in the year as part of a new series titled All Clear.

For Russell, the AJTL win came not long after success at the Adelaide Royal Show, where he and Daprice won the World Cup Qualifier class. Although Russell didn’t compete in the first three Australian World Cup 2019/20 season legs, when he stepped out at the Adelaide Royal he meant business. He and Daprice were the only combination to jump a double clear, and in doing so not only won the class — but also secured an all-important Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) for the Tokyo Olympics. For Russell, who represented Australia at the ’96 Atlanta Olympics, team selection is certainly on the radar and he believes that with Daprice he has the horsepower to achieve it. 

 

Russell Johnstone and Daprice have enjoyed World Cup success. © Michelle Terlato Photography

Russell Johnstone and Daprice have enjoyed World Cup success

© Michelle Terlato Photography

 

If competing in the AJTL and on the World Cup circuit isn’t enough, Russell is also involved in season two of Jump Off — a televised series that sees retired racehorses retrained as showjumpers. Last year, Russell was part of the Barastoc-sponsored Team Johnstone/Hayes. While they didn’t win the series, they did produce some great horses that have now gone on to good showjumping homes. 

This year, the series takes on a different format that means it’s open to the public. There are three classes: “Just Raced” for any retired Thoroughbred racehorse that has raced or trialled within the last two years from the date of their last official race or trial; “Have Jumped” for any retired Thoroughbred racehorse with up to but not exceeding 30 EA points; and “Have Jumped Open” for any retired Thoroughbred racehorse. The $100k prize pool is split across the three categories, however half ($50k) is allocated to the “Just Raced” event. The team format may be gone this year, but Russell is still very much involved and has a horse entered.

Russell enjoys working with the thoroughbreds, and believes the series is a great way to promote the breed. He also believes Jump Off has the potential to change the sport in Australia by introducing outsiders to jumping. “The beautiful thing about Jump Off is that it is going to educate the general public as to what we do. It’s not just seeing riders in jackets — old hunting jackets from last century — and coming across as some sort of an elitist type sport. The cameras go in behind the scenes; they get to know the riders and what’s going on. There is much more awareness of the sport and that’s fabulous. So next time when viewers see a showjumping competition, they’re like ‘oh yeah, we know these riders, we know what they do and their backgrounds and there’s a bit more in this than we thought’.”

Russell and his wife Mel, who have run the Victorian Showjumping Stables in Humevale north of Melbourne for 30 years, have enjoyed a long association with Barastoc. The feed manufacturer is again returning this year as a sponsor of Jump Off. When it comes to feeding, Russell likes to keep it simple. “I’m a real grain feeding fan, I like my oats and lupins – but we also really like the Barastoc Breed N Grow pellet. It works in really well with our feeding regime. And then, for vitamins and minerals we use Groom. Barastoc’s products are high quality and ideal to complete our requirements.” Russell also uses Barastoc Competitor for his higher-level horses that need that extra energy during competition season.

 

Russell Johnstone with Melanie at the Victorian Jumping Stables. © Barastoc

Russell Johnstone with Melanie at the Victorian Jumping Stables

© Barastoc

 

With a busy few months ahead, we wish Russell all the best in the remaining legs of the AJTL and World Cup qualifiers — and also for series two of Jump Off!

Series two of Jump Off is currently airing via Channel 7. You can catch it via 7TWO on Sundays at 4pm, late night on CH7 (main channel), and repeats on Racing.com (CH78) on Monday and Saturday nights. In addition, it's always available for catch-up on 7Plus!

This article was written in conjunction with Barastoc.
 

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