It all ends in mud, sweat and tears as four-time champion jump jockey Richard Johnson, 43, announces his shocking retirement after 3,800 British winners out of 21,000 rides
- Johnson announced his retirement with immediate effect on Saturday
- He revealed his shocking decision after riding Newton Abbot with Brother Tedd
- The 43-year-old was awarded an OBE in 2019 for his achievements in horse racing
Richard Johnson, four-time champion jockey and one of the most successful show jumpers in racing history, surprised the sport by announcing his retirement from Newton Abbot on Saturday.
The 43-year-old made his announcement after teaming up with brother Tedd to third place in the newtonabbotracing.com Handicap Chase. Johnson’s last ride was fitting for his longtime ally, trainer Philip Hobbs.
In an emotional announcement, a tearful Johnson said, “That’s it for me. I had a great time, but now is the right time to stop now. I wanted to do it on one of Philip’s.
Jockey Richard Johnson announced his retirement with immediate effect on Saturday
‘I love to drive and have enjoyed it for so long. I’ve had the support of so many people and have been able to do much more than I ever dreamed of.
“It’s time I started doing something different and there will be a lot of young boys in the weighing room who are happy to see my back.”
Whoever tries to fill Johnson’s shoes has a challenge. His accomplishments were staggering, but they mostly remained in the shadows as Johnson spent most of his career battling Sir Anthony McCoy, a man whose performance changed the sport.
Sixteen times, Johnson finished second to McCoy in the jump jockeys championship before eventually taking the crown for four consecutive seasons after his old adversity retired.
Johnson won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Native River for the second time in 2018
Both men shared a work ethic that shaped their careers, regardless of the physical or mental obstacles they faced.
Rightly, McCoy led the tribute to Johnson by tweeting, “ Sometimes those who challenge us the most teach us the best. You did both to me for over 20 years and I will be forever grateful thank you buddy. When you go home tonight, look in the mirror and you will see what a champion looks like. ‘
A look at Johnson’s career statistics shows that he was much more than a racing bridesmaid. He has won 3,800 British winners – only McCoy has ridden more – over 21,000 rides.
They included two Cheltenham Gold Cups – Looks Like Trouble in 2000 for his father-in-law trainer Noel Chance and Colin Tizzard-trained Native River in 2018. Johnson won the 2003 Champion Hurdle on Hobbs-trained Rooster Booster in 2003.
Johnson was awarded an OBE for his horse racing achievements on the 2019 New Year’s Roll of Honor
His 23 Cheltenham Festival winners included the 2002 Queen Mother Champion Chase on Hobbs-trained Flagship Uberalles, while his first festival win over Anzum came in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 1999 for the late David Nicholson, the coach who started Johnson’s early career. gave an impulse. He had dropped out of school at the age of 16 to join Nicholson’s stable near Cheltenham and was a champion conditional jockey in 1995-6 by the time he was 18. Johnson’s first ride as an amateur jockey was on the family-trained Rusty Bridge in January 1994, when he finished fourth in a Chepstow Hunter Chase.
The same horse gave him his first victory in April of that year. Success was rightly so in Hereford in his native region. Among the people Johnson thanked yesterday were trainers Peter Bowen, Henry Daly and Milton Bradley as well as physiotherapist Kate Davies.
He called her prolonging his career when it was threatened by a chronic hip injury related to muscle wasting after a leg fracture.
Davies, who has worked with rugby players and ballet dancers, invented a series of Pilates exercises for Johnson.
Johnson lost his crown to Brian Hughes in last season’s shortened campaign, a broken arm shattered his hopes, and his 75 winners this season place him in seventh place in this year’s title race.
Johnson, who received an OBE on the 2019 New Year’s Roll of Honor for his horseracing achievements, has ridden in 21 Grand Nationals – more than any other jockey.
He finished second in 2002 with the Hobbs-trained What’s Up Boys and in 2014 with Balthazar King, but it was never a race he really enjoyed, so it’s no surprise that he retired just before the race takes place next Saturday.
Nor is it that he decided to leave the podium one day at Newton Abbot when the racing was held behind closed doors, apart from a few owners.
Hobbs, his wife Sarah and his main staff were in attendance, as well as colleagues from Johnson’s Weighing Room. Johnson was a man who never sought the spotlight.
He will now likely spend much of his time on the family farm and with his family, wife Fiona and children Willow, Caspar and Percy.