A Season In Review – Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

In regards to accolades, this season might well be the 40-year-old’s greatest season yet.

Not only will he pick up the Stobart Champion Jump Jockey trophy this Saturday at Sandown but the top jockey took home the most prestigious prize of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, winning the Gold Cup with Native River.

Johnson’s season has very much built into a crescendo of success. In early December, the Herefordshire-based jockey claimed his first Graded race success.

It was Johnson who gave Beer Goggles a brilliant ride to upset the odds in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Little was expected of the then six-year-old, yet under Johnson’s confident ride and a bold show of jumping he romped home at 40/1 to beat off the much vaunted competition.

The next big race success came in February. This time, victory was more expected, his mount Native River lining up for the first time this season, going off as clear favourite in the Betfair Denman Chase.

In a race that demonstrated trainer Colin Tizzard’s horses’ claims for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the duo of Johnson and Native River jumped emphatically to win handsomely at Newbury.

The style of the performance sparked ferocious debate on the credentials of Native River as the primary challenger to Nicky Hendersons’ King George winner Might Bite in the big one.

 

When the Gold Cup came, Johnson and Native River showed a merciless attitude, setting a ruthless gallop from the front that for the most part, a field of very high class horses simply couldn’t handle.

From the half way stage it was a two horse race between Native River and Might Bite. The resulting outcome was an exhilarating finish, in which Johnson squeezed out every last drop of effort to defeat Henderson’s gutsy Might Bite.

After the race Johnson exuded delight “For me, the Gold Cup is the most important race of the year.”

“I know for some people the Grand National is ‘the people’s race’, but this is the best of the best. It’s everyone’s dream to own a Gold Cup horse and to ride one is brilliant; to win it now twice is fantastic.”

“The championship has always been my main target, but when you can have one or two of these along the way, they are very special.”

Johnson didn’t slow down there though, he carried the positive momentum forward into the Grand National Festival at Aintree.

The first of his successes in Mersyside came with Lalor in the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle, a victory tinged with understandable emotion after the tragic death of the horse’s former trainer Richard Woollacott.

Finally, Aintree provided Johnson with one last opportunity to take flight with Thomas Patrick, his most successful mount this year; the duo have amassed three wins from four races in 2018.

The lively six-year-old can be seen below travelling beautifully at the forefront of the field, before taking off after the second last to surge clear and out stay his rivals.


Johnson will no doubt have an attractive book of rides coming into the meeting at Sandown this Saturday and will be hoping to add to his current tally of 174 winners on this, his crowning moment yet again.

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