Richard Johnson: ‘I practically ran out to collect my champion jockey trophy’ *H&H VIP*

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  • It is hard to put into words how I feel this week. It has been a blur and very emotional; to become champion jockey is what I’ve dreamed of since I started riding.

    I’ve craved the title for 20 years and been runner-up too many times to count, so now to have won it is slightly surreal.

    Saturday was a day that my family and I will never forget. 

    The day itself flew by. I was on Channel 4’s The Morning Line at 9am, then rode, had a winner and then received my trophy from AP McCoy, which was very special.

    I practically ran out there to collect it. 

    My parents, brother, wife Fiona and our three children were all there and the day couldn’t have gone any better.

    I watched the Channel 4 coverage back but I’m not sure it has quite sunk in yet. It was great to celebrate with my friends and family; there was a real sense of a job done. I’m very proud, but also of everyone involved. It’s a team effort from everyone who has supported me. I’m the one that rides the horses but the trainers and the stable staff do all the hard work. 

    There’s definitely a sense of relief too. If I hadn’t won this year then I would have been disappointed in myself. I don’t know where I’m going to put the trophy yet, possibly out of reach of the children, but finding it a home is a nice problem to have. To see my name on there alongside AP, Richard Dunwoody and Peter Scudamore, whom I admired growing up, is such an honour.

    A great finale

    Sandown put on a great season finale. Everyone was there hoping to see something special and it didn’t disappoint.

    Sprinter Sacre was superb and put in a fantastic performance for his fans. He has had a great comeback. To win there by 15 lengths after winning the Champion Chase — he has really proved he’s still a star.

    The atmosphere at the track was amazing. Racing is doing a really good job of bringing more people into the sport and it showed on Saturday, there was that extra buzz.

    For me, Menorah winning was the icing on the cake — someone up there was looking out for me. I’ve been so lucky to ride nice horses all season. Menorah’s been a great servant to us all and I couldn’t be happier.

    The trainer’s title was a very closely-run race and wasn’t decided until the final day of the season, which made it exciting.

    Paul Nicholls retained his title ahead of Willie Mullins, thanks to placings from Just A Par and Southfield Theatre in the bet365 Gold Cup.

    Paul himself said he doesn’t have the superstars like Denman and Kauto Star that he has had in the past, but the fact he’s still winning shows what a great effort the whole team have put in.

    Willie Mullins doesn’t even live in this country, so for him to get so close to taking the spoils is incredible. He has such strength and depth in his yard. I think next year’s title race will be a close call too.

    Back to zero

    Today (28 April) it all starts again and we all go back to zero. I’ve had a couple of days off to recharge the batteries and reflect on what’s happened, but I need to get going quickly for next season now. As AP always said, you need to get out of the gates fast and notch up the winners early on, to give
    you a bit of a cushion should something go wrong during the season.

    The target for next season is most certainly to keep my title of champion jockey. I still want to win as much as ever. 

    I’ve been very lucky and I owe a massive thanks to everyone, my wife Fiona, my agent Dave Roberts, Philip Hobbs and a band of other trainers and owners, to Horse & Hound and to everyone who has supported me throughout this season. I’m extremely grateful and feel very humbled and overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity.

    Saturday was the best moment in my career. It will be hard to top, but hopefully there is still more to come.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 28 April 2016