All you need to know about Richard Johnson, Horse & Hound’s new racing columnist
How did you get into riding?
I grew up on a farm and so was always riding ponies. I started when I was about five and it went from there; I did a lot of Pony Club and hunted as a child and loved it.
Why did you decide on racing?
I wanted to be a jockey because when I was a child I thought it would be easier than being a farmer — I’m not so sure now though! My dad was an amateur jockey and my mum is a trainer. It was always in my blood and always what I wanted to do.
Do you still hunt or ride outside of racing?
Not really, unfortunately. I go hunting a bit, but not as much as I’d like to. Obviously in the winter we’re racing most days so I don’t get much of a chance. I went out with the Radnor and West Hereford recently though, and took my children — Willow, who’s six, Caspar who’s three and 18-month old Percy. They all love their ponies and riding.
What’s your biggest achievement in racing so far?
Winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Looks Like Trouble in 2000 was a great day. The Gold Cup is the one race you always want to win as a jockey. I rode the winner for trainer Noel Chance, who is now my father-in-law. We have Looks Like Trouble at home in Herefordshire, and my wife Fiona rides him every day and takes him out hunting. He’s 22 and is the family pet.
Winning the other big Cheltenham races — the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2002 with Flagship Uberalles and the 2003 Champion Hurdle with Rooster Booster — were amazing days too.
What do you think is an issue in racing at the moment?
Prize-money is the topic that’s always up for debate. For owners it’s a very expensive sport and when there’s not that much remuneration, there’s less incentive to keep going, which is detrimental to racing. It’s improved a bit in the past 12 months, so we’re going the right way but there’s still room for improvement.
Do you have any major goals still to achieve?
Of course I’d love to be champion jockey [see comment] as I’ve been runner-up so many times [Richard is the only jockey after AP McCoy to have ridden more than 2,500 winners but has been held off by McCoy every year]. But AP is still going strong. I’m currently sitting in second on the leaderboard for the 2014/15 season — behind McCoy. He’s on 151 and I’m on 74 but there’s a long way to go yet.
What race would you like to win most?
The Grand National. I’ve finished second twice [What’s Up Boys in 2002 and Balthazar King in 2014] but it’s still the race that’s eluded me. We’re aiming Balthazar King at the race next April. He finished second in it last season [to Pineau De Re and Leighton Aspell] so he’s proved he likes the course and as a cross-country expert [see comment] we know he loves to jump.
This feature was originally published in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 6 November, 2014