Draped in black-and-orange silks emblazoned with No. 85 and “Ocho Cinco,” Chad Johnson eighty-sixed a four-year-old thoroughbred in Saturday’s showdown at River Downs.
Before a raucous Belmont day crowd of about 8,000 that Johnson fired up along the rail of the interior turf track as he warmed up, the Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver beat Restore The Roar by 12 horse lengths and then called for a rematch this summer that would be more fair for the beast.
The horse, ridden by P.J. Cooksey, once the winningest female jockey of all time, ran about 220 yards, or a furlong, while Johnson had a 110-yard head start and ran one--16th of a mile.
It was Restore The Roar’s fourth race in a career known mainly for distance, and his first run on grass. Still, the result surprised many veteran horse observers.
“That is a very fast man,” said Cooksey, who beat Bengals receiver Cris Collinsworth in a photo finish in 1993. “Kudos to Chad. If we had the same start I’m not sure we still could have beat him.”
Johnson, of course, said he had it all the way. With all proceeds going to his favorite charity, “Feed The Children,” Johnson had a message for the NFL.
“Ray (Lewis), Ed (Reed), DeAngelo (Hall), you all saw that,” said Johnson after a quick appearance on ESPN. “We’re going to Arizona (site of the Super Bowl).”