After 16 years as runner-up, H&H racing columnist Richard Johnson finally lifted the champion jump jockey trophy, in front of a packed crowd at Sandown on Saturday (23 April).
“It all feels a bit surreal,” Richard told H&H. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet. It’s just brilliant. I feel so proud and extremely grateful for all the support I have received over the years.”
Last year’s finale was an emotional one, with AP McCoy bowing out of the sport after 20 years at the top. But this year was equally memorable and touching, with Richard receiving a warm response from fans.
Richard’s total of 235 winners this season was the highest since AP’s score of 258 in 2003.
Aidan Coleman was the closest runner-up on 130 wins in the season.
Richard received a guard of honour from his weighing room colleagues as he entered the paddock to receive his trophy from AP McCoy.
The trophy is a new one, commissioned by Great British Racing and designed by Asprey of London, after the previous trophy was given to AP on his retirement in honour of his achievements.
The trophy, which bears the image of AP, also is engraved with the words “bravery, dedication, resilience, talent”.
Richard, who has ridden more than 3,000 winners in his career, told H&H it was “a dream come true”.
And his day was topped off by a win for 11-year-old Menorah, trained by Philip Hobbs, in the Grade Two bet365 Oaksey Chase.
“I owe a massive thanks to everyone who has been involved over the years, my wife Fiona, my agent Dave Roberts, Philip Hobbs, and all the other trainers, owners who have supported me and the stable staff who have looked after the horses and helped me get here,” added Richard.
“It’s a relief to have finally won, but it’s not over yet, I’m still hungry to retain the title next year.”
The National Hunt trainer’s title race went right down to the wire, with the result not being decided until Saturday, the final day of the season.
In the end, Somerset-based Paul Nicholls retained his crown, taking his 10th trainer’s title, thanks to places from Just A Par and Southfield Theatre in the bet365 Gold Cup. This meant he triumphed over Irish handler Willie Mullins.
National hunt fans were also treated by Sprinter Sacre, who put in a superb performance to win the Grade one bet365 Celebration Chase, 15 lengths ahead of Un De Sceaux.
To read more of Richard’s views on becoming champion jockey, don’t miss his final column of the 2015/16 season, exclusively in this week’s H&H, out Thursday 28 April.