A year ago we witnessed the man who became Sir Anthony McCoy anointed champion jockey for one last time. Today, we see Richard Johnson anointed champion for the first time. Whereas McCoy’s final coronation inevitably triggered mixed emotions, there is nothing but happiness to be had from seeing the sport’s perennial number two finally, deservedly, joyfully, become number one.By winning the final jumps race McCoy ever rode in, Johnson immediately picked up the baton from his great rival and friend on this very card. From that moment he was the one to beat and he has proceeded to beat them hollow.Quite astonishingly, the 38-year-old – Dickie to his friends, Richard to his family – has ridden more than 100 winners more than any other rider in a season in which some expected a fierce fight between those aspiring to take over from McCoy. That fight did not materialise. Instead, we have known for months that this would be the day Johnson’s lifelong dream comes true, 22 years after he rode his first winner.This is the day when we can at long last describe Richard Johnson as champion jockey. Aside from McCoy, no jumps rider has ridden more winners than the man who finished second to him in the title table 16 times.Through all those years Johnson never once begrudged being in the shadow of another and never once said anything other than flattering words about the man who possessed the thing he most desired.That is because Johnson has always been a champion in everything but name. He is as brave and resilient a jockey as we have ever known, an absolute gentleman, unfailingly polite, ever helpful and always a friend to the punter.He is the epitome of what a champion should be. On this very special day, a champion is what he becomes.
Southfield Theatre has schooled well since [Cheltenham] and takes the eye from a handicapping point of view. After all, this is a horse who finished runner-up to the now 163-rated Don Poli in the RSA Chase last year, yet can race off 150 in a race that should play to his strengths.
Luton were backed off the boards in pre-season to win Sky Bet League Two but the Hatters left their supporters mad after a woeful start to the campaign. However, Luton have improved massively since Graham Jones became their manager in January and can make it four straight wins with a victory over lowly Newport today
As a boy, I was never infatuated by the Gold Cup or Grand National. I thought then that being champion jockey was the best thing you could achieve and I still do. It's what I've always wanted. It has always been my biggest goal but I haven't managed to do it
Richard made me achieve what I achieved, he drove me on and it's great he's getting rewarded today.We sat next to each other for the best part of 20 years with never a cross word between us