In 2015/16, Richard Johnson finally emerged from the shadow of perennial champion Sir Anthony McCoy – to whom he had finished runner-up on no fewer than 16 occasions – to win the National Hunt Jockeys’ Championship for the first time. Indeed, Johnson went on to win the jockeys’ title again for the next three seasons running and, in 2019/20, was only three winners behind eventual winner Brian Hughes when sustaining a broken arm following a fall at Exeter in early January, which effectively ended his hopes of a fifth jockeys’ championship.
Champion conditional jockey in 1995/96, at the age of 18, Johnson has enjoyed a long, illustrious career. However, despite winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, on Looks Like Trouble in 2000 and Native River in 2018, he has never won the Grand National. In fact, Johnson holds the record for the most rides in the Grand National, 21, and, less enviably, the most rides without a winner.
Johnson first rode in the infamous ‘Monday National’ in 1997, but was unseated when his mount, Celtic Abbey, blundered at The Chair, the penultimate fence on the first circuit. Since then, the closest he has come to winning the National was in 2002, when What’s Up Boys was eventually beaten a length-and-three-quarters by the rallying Bindaree, having held a three-length lead at the Elbow, halfway up the run-in. Johnson also rode the runner-up, Balthazar King, in the 2014 Grand National.