Johnson eyes hat-trick after notching second title
You might think Richard Johnson was ready for a long lie down after securing a second Stobart Jump Jockeys' Championship after so many years in the shadow of his great friend and rival Sir Anthony McCoy, but far from it.
He is already working towards a third championship and, even before he exited the weighing room and headed to the presentation stand through the traditional guard of honour, he had already been through the entries as far ahead as Thursday looking for the next winner.
There will be no let up, except for a nine-day break in August that is now built into the fixture list, when he hopes to get away with the family. He will be racing again at Kempton on Monday, and then on just about every other day for the next 12 months when jumps racing is scheduled and he is neither injured nor suspended.
"The most important thing is to be champion again and to keep busy and get winners on the board," he underlined.
"Gordon Elliott was a big supporter last summer, as was Tim Vaughan, and they gave me the platform you need these days. That's the sort of start I'm looking for again."
He added: "I'm very lucky that between Philip Hobbs and my agent Dave Roberts I'm busy all year round and enjoying it. I'm quite fortunate with my weight, and I'd say that if 'AP' had been my size he would have carried on longer.
"On the whole my weight stays reasonably level and, although I wouldn't do 10st too often these days, I don't need to as I'm usually riding nice horses."
Looking back on a season that yielded 186 winners, 49 fewer than last year, he said: "February was a bit of a write off, as I hurt my shoulder, and then I wasn't well the day Native River ran at Newbury. But for that I'd have been knocking at the door for 200 winners, which had been the aim at the beginning of the season.
"I can't be disappointed though. On the whole it's been a good solid season, with winners from all over the place and Dave Roberts doing an amazing job for me again."
The highlights have been obvious enough.
Johnson said: "It was great to win on Native River at Aintree in 2016 and I hoped he would have a good chance in the Hennessy, but he's just got better and better and I thought winning the Welsh National in bad conditions with top weight was an amazing performance. You don't do that unless you are very classy.
"Philip always liked Defi Du Seuil but his improvement has still surprised us to some extent. To ride any winner at the Cheltenham Festival is very nice, but to ride one in a Grade 1 like the Triumph for Philip was obviously extra special, although it was bad luck on Barry [Geraghty].
"And then of course there's Menorah. What a way to finish the season."
Richard Johnson’s season in numbers
1 position in jockeys’ table
66 winners for Philip Hobbs
18 percentage of winners to rides
2 Grade 1 wins
18 wins at Perth – his winningmost track
19 winners for Gordon Elliott
Native River Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National
It was a close call at Newbury but Native River dug deep to provide the champion jockey with a first big strike of the season – and the following month he produced one of the finest performances of the campaign when lumping top-weight to victory at Chepstow
Defi Du Seuil Future Champions Novice Hurdle, Triumph Hurdle
Philip Hobbs’ emerging stable star provided Johnson with both his Grade 1 wins during the campaign, the most memorable coming at the Cheltenham Festival, when he underlined his immense promise with a commanding five-length victory
The New One International Hurdle
One of the big names of jumps racing but not one usually associated with Johnson. However, with Sam Twiston-Davies on Old Guard for Paul Nicholls, the champion hopped into the saddle and made the most of it, the duo making all for a popular success