With AP McCoy now retired H&H columnist Richard Johnson is bidding for his first champion jockey title — having been runner-up to The Champ an agonising 16 times. Here are some things you may not know about the 38-year-old…
1. He has nearly 3,000 career winners to his name. This season, to date, he has notched up 138 wins. His closest rival on the 201/2016 leaderboard is Aidan Coleman on 86 triumphs.
2. He grew up on a farm in Herefordshire and comes from a horsey background — both his grandfathers hunted, his mother, Sue, trains and his father, Keith, rode in point-to-points.
3. His first pony was called Twinkle and in Richard’s words was “a typical Shetland with a mind of its own”.
4. Richard credits his 13hh pony Tasty for igniting his desire to race-ride. “She was a speedy little thing and would jump whatever you pointed her at,” he says.
5. He enjoyed eventing but eventually decided “dressage was too slow”.
6. Aged 14, he spent a week during his summer holidays at the yard of David Nicholson — he joined the team full-time at 16.
7. His career flourished when he teamed up with the Somerset-based trainer Philip Hobbs in 2000.
8. Looks Like Trouble, with whom Richard won the 2000 Cheltenham Gold Cup, lives in retirement with him at home. Richard’s wife, Fiona, still hunts him — he describes the gelding, who was trained by his father-in-law Noel Chance, as the “family pet”.
9. Richard has three young children, Willow, Caspar and Percy, and he takes them out hunting on their ponies as often as he can.
10. As a child, he was a member of the Radnor and West Herefordshire branch of the pony club — his seven-year-old daughter, Willow, joined the same branch this year.
11. As of yet the Grand National has remained elusive to him, but he has come close — he finished second in 2014 with Balthazar King. It’s still the one race he wants to win.
12. His big wins to date, including his Gold Cup triumph with Looks Like Trouble, have come in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (Flagship Uberalles, 2002) and the Champion Hurdle (Rooster Booster, 2003). He’s also dual winner of the cross-country race at the Festival, both times aboard Balthazar King (2012 and 2014).