Richard Johnson – Years at the Top – Happy Retirement!

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. After the news a couple of weeks ago that Richard Johnson was retiring from the saddle I have decided to have a look at some facts and figures of his career so I can compile them all into this post for you all. As many people know by now, Richard was the first person within racing to give up his time and allow me to interview him (twice) and has always supported me and helped me with anything I’ve ever needed, which I appreciate more than anyone realises. The day I first interviewed him, he knew it was the first one I was doing and he knew I was nervous, so he took his time, didn’t rush me and he allowed me to make mistakes, he then spoke to me after the interview and gave me encouragement and support to continue doing what I loved and that’s exactly what I did and I am so glad I did! If you missed my interviews with Richard you can read them here… 2017: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and 2019: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/an-updated-interview-with-champion-jockey-richard-johnson/ . I hope you enjoy those! However, without further ado, I’m just going to jump right into it.


Richard Johnson OBE was born on July 21st 1977 in Hereford, England into a racing family, especially with his mother being Sue Johnson, a horse racing trainer. At 16 years old Richard left school to work for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first win came in April 1994 when he won on Rusty Bridge at Hereford, which turned out to be his only win of the season. However, the following season the 1995-1996 season, Richard rode 56 winners and became the Champion Conditional Jockey at just 18 years old. And he didn’t stop there, the next season 1996-1997 was the first time Richard rode 100 winners in a season ending up with 102 and from that year Richard rode 100 winners every single season (apart from the 2020-2021 season when Richard has retired on 73 winners).

1996 was a pretty good year for Richard, not only did he ride 100+ winners, but those winners also included some pretty big races. Starting with the Towton Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2) at Wetherby on the 11th of January on Mr Mulligan, a 3/1 shot who beat the 11/10 favourite Call It A Day by a massive 15 lengths.

Richard then won again on Mr Mulligan a month later on February 14th in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2), this time as the 9/4 favourite, beating 4/1 shot Nahthen Lad by 15 lengths again.

It was then April 11th when Richard had another big win when winning the European Breeders Fund ‘national hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (Class A Grade 3) at Cheltenham on board Miss Optimist, a 9/1 shot for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first Grade 1 win of many also came in 1996 on April 24th when he won the Heineken Gold Cup on Billygoat Gruff for David Nicholson at 7/1.

Moving swiftly into 1997, we then have another brilliant season for Richard, starting with a win in the Seagram Top Novices’ Hurdle (Class A) on April 3rd on Midnight Legend (11/2) beating the team of Mick Fitzgerald and Nicky Henderson with the 100/30 favourite Sharpical by 2 lengths. The very next day, on April 4th another Class A came along, when Richard won the Belle Epoque Sefton Novices’ Hurdle on board Forest Ivory (11/2) actually beating a rare Aidan O’Brien horse, Private Peace (11/2) in second being rode by Charlie Swan.

Richard then headed over to Ireland and Punchestown where he won the Country Pride Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 2) on the 7/4 favourite Midnight Legend, beating the Aidan O’Brien and Paul Carberry partnership with Whats The Verdict (9/1) by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

Moving into the 1997-1998 season, Richard started with winning the William Hill Haldon Gold Cup Chase Limited Handicap (Class A Grade 2) at Exeter on board Viking Flagship (9/1) for David Nicholson, beating stable mate Mulligan (2/1) by 5 lengths.

Richard then won the Bonusprint Bula Hurdle (Class A / Class 1) at Cheltenham on December 13th on board Relkeel for David Nicholson, beating the Martin Pipe and AP McCoy team with the 13/8 favourite Pridwell by 1 and 3/4 lengths. Just 2 weeks later on December 27th, Richard headed to Wetherby with 4/9 favourite Viking Flagship, winning the Castleford Chase (Class A / Class 1).

It was 1998 when Richard would win another Grade 1 when heading to Punchestown on April 30th on board the 2/1 favourite Zafarabad winning the I.A.W.S Champion Four Year Old Hurdle by just a neck. It was almost a year before Richard won another big race, this came on March 18th 1999 when he won the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival on a 40/1 shot Anzum, beating the 2/1 joint favourite Le Coudray who was owned by JP McManus, trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Charlie Swan by just a neck.

The following month on April 9th, Richard headed to the Aintree Festival and won the Grade 2 Mumm Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Class A) on the 100/30 favourite Spendid – Coincidentally beating a horse trained by who would become Richard’s number 1 trainer, Philip Hobbs with Village King (11/2).

Richard travelled back to Ireland on April 29th where he won the Grade 1 Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Anzum (7/1). Richard had plenty of Grade 2 and 3 success during the year, however his next Grade 1 came on December 18th 1999 at Ascot when he won the Cantor Fitzgerald Long Walk Hurdle (Class A) on again on Anzum (4/1) beating the 4/9 favourite Deano’s Beeno by 17 lengths who was rode by AP McCoy and trained by Martin Pipe.

Moving into the 21st century, Richard won the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Showcase Race Grade 1 in March 2000, on Looks Like Trouble (9/2). He then had many Grade 1, 2 and 3 success over the years including the Tingle Creek Chase and Queen Mother Chase, both with Flagship Uberalles, the County Handicap Hurdle and Victor Chandler Bula Hurdle both on Rooster Booster and many more.

Also want to note that Richard came second on What’s Up Boys in the Grand National in 2002, which turned out to be his best position in the race, also meeting this when coming 2nd again in 2014 on Balthazar King.

The next race I want to mention is the Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) in 2003 when Richard won on 9/2 shot Rooster Booster for Philip Hobbs by 11 lengths. When I interviewed Richard he said this was one of this favourite rides of his career.

I am going to jump ahead a little while now as if I went through every single graded race Richard won I would end up having a post which is about a 3 hour read. So let’s jump to 2012 and on March 13th Richard won the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival on Balthazar King (11/2). In 2014, Richard won the same race on the same horse, this time at 4/1 and in the same year he finished 2nd in the Grand National on Balthazar King at 14/1 which was the closest Richard got to winning the big race (for a secon time) and again, when I spoke to him, he said that was also one of his favourite races in his career.

We also have the Midlands Grand National in 2014 when he won on Goulanes (13/2F). The Peterborough Chase in 2014 with Wishfull Thinking (13/2). The Denman Chase in 2015 on Coneygree (15/8F) as well as the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock in 2015 on the recently retired Definitly Red (9/4).

We also have my favourite ever horse, Native River who partnered with Richard when winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Hennessy Gold Cup Chase in 2016 and the Welsh Grand National all in 2016, followed by the Denman Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018, the Many Clouds Chase in 2019 and the Cotswold Chase in 2021.

There was also La Bague Au Roi who won the OLBG Mares Hurdle in 2017, Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase and Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in 2018, Flogas Novice Chase in 2019. As well as Thyme Hill who won the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Challow Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 as well as the Long Distance Hurdle in 2020.


Now we’ve had a brief overview, I want to look at Richard Johnson vs AP McCoy because their rivalry ruled the sport for a long while so let’s just have a little look. Overall AP McCoy finished with 4204 British career wins and 144 Irish career wins whereas Richard Johnson finished with 3799 British career wins and 19 Irish career wins.

From the 1995-1996 season until the 2014-2015 season AP McCoy won and retained the Jump Jockey Championship, however Richard was always on his tail and in the 2015-2016 season after AP retired, Richard took over as Champion Jockey and ended up winning it 4 times, before Brian Hughes won it in the 2019-2020 season.


Now, I’ve summed up Richard’s career, but now let’s look at the Big Race Wins. Let’s start with the Cheltenham Festival:

Cheltenham Gold Cup x 2 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000 & Native River – 2018)
Champion Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2003)
Queen Mother Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2002)
Stayers’ Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Triumph Hurdle x 3 (Made in Japan – 2004, Detroit City – 2006 & Defi du Seuil – 2017)
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Menorah – 2010)
Champion Bumper x 1 (Cheltenian – 2011)
Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Massini’s Maguire – 2007)
Arkle Challenge Trophy x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase x 1 (One Knight – 2003)
Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase x 1 (Copper Bleu – 2010)
Coral Cup x 1 (Monkerhostin – 2004)
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase x 2 (Balthazar King – 2012 & 2014)
Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Flying Tiger – 2017)
Pertemps Final x 1 (Fingal Bay – 2014)
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase x 2 (Dark Stranger – 2000 & Young Spartacus – 2003)
County Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2002)

Now let’s look at some notable races in Britain:

Tingle Creek Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2000)
Long Walk Hurdle x 4 (Anzum – 1999, Mighty Man – 2006 & Reve di Sivola – 2012 & 2013
Henry VIII Novices’ Chase x 1 (Fair Along – 2006)
Kauto Star Novices’ Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2018)
Finale Juvenile Hurdle x 3 (Franchoek – 2007, Le Rocher – 2013 & Defi Du Seuil – 2016)
Challow Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Fingal Bay – 2012 & Thyme Hill – 2020)
Ascot Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2014)
Manifesto Novices’ Chase x 2 (Wishfull Thinking – 2011 & Menorah – 2012)
Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Lord Brex – 2000 & Detroit City – 2006)
Betway Bowl x 1 (Escartefigue – 1998)
Top Novices’ Hurdle x 5 (Midnight Legend – 1997, Phardante Flyer – 2000, In Contrast – 2002, Mighty Man – 2005 & Lalor – 2018)
Mildmay Novices’ Chase x 3 (Spendid – 1999, What’s Up Boys – 2001 & Native River – 2016)
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Forest Ivory – 1997 & Saint Are – 2011)
Liverpool Hurdle x 2 (Mighty Man – 2006 & 2007)
Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase x 1 (Sporting John – 2021)

And now a quick look at Irish notable winners:

Irish Gold Cup x 2 (Florida Pearl – 2001 & 2004)
Punchestown Gold Cup x 1 (Planet of Sound – 2010)
Champion Stayers Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Punchestown Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2003)
Ladbrokes Champion Chase x 1 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000)
Dr P. J. Moriarty Novice Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2019)
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle x 1 (Midnight Legend – 1997)
Ryanair Novice Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle x 2 (What’s Up Boys – 2000 & Spirit of Adjisa – 2011)
Champion Four Year Old Hurdle x 1 (Zafarabad – 1998)

Also think it’s so important to note here that Richard Johnson rode in the Grand National 21 times without winning which holds the record for the most rides without a win, the closest he got was 2nd in 2002 on What’s Up Boys and 2014 on Balthazar King. So let’s sim up his 21 rides:

1/21 = Unseated
6/21 = Fell
5/21 = Pulled Up
2/21 = Placed
4/21 = Finished
2/21 = Brought Down
1/21 = Refused


Things to note… Richard Johnson became the eighth National Hunt jockey to ride 1000 winners in April 2003. In December 2009, at Newbury, Richard became the second jockey to hit 2000 winners, only joining AP McCoy. In January 2016, Richard had his 3000th winner and after being runner up 16 times to AP McCoy, he finally became Champion Jockey.

I also want to note, even though everybody knows by now, that Richard Johnson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to Horse Racing. And on April 3rd 2021, Richard Johnson announced his immediate retirement at Newton Abbot.


So there we have it, I know this post was a little bit all over the place, but I hope it all makes sense as it does to me! I hope you all enjoyed.

I will hopefully see you all in my next post on Wednesday at 6pm!

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