The longevity of Richard Johnson almost beggars belief.
The 41-year-old is currently in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career, and on Saturday he will be crowned as Champion Jockey for the fourth consecutive campaign.
Johnson is also expected to crash through the 200 winner mark for the season in the coming days – the second time he will have achieved the feat – and would come roughly 25 years since his first: a horse called Rusty Bridge at Hereford.
Many suspect plenty of records will fall at his hands in the coming years. It’s nigh-on impossible for him to match Tony McCoy’s tally of 20 Champion Jockey titles, but passing the legend’s incredible mark of 4,348 winners could well be within his grasp.
He currently sits on 3,620 winners and has ridden 197 to success this term. The 200 figure is in sight with rides on Thursday before a trip to the Bet365 Jump Finale at Sandown over the weekend.
“My main ambition was to try to retain the championship, so we’ve managed to do that and it’s fantastic,” Johnson has said.
“I’d love to get to 200 by Saturday. There’s a bit of work to do before that, but it’s always my main ambition to be champion, and to do that again is a big highlight.”
And his ambition shows no signs of dimming: he’s already looking forward to next season, which he will start in the coming weeks.
“I might be at Punchestown for a day or two next week, and I’ll be back to it a week on Saturday and hopefully find somewhere to get off zero and start all over again.”
“There are lots of young lads riding well and riding lots of winners, so I’ve got to concentrate on each day and riding as many winners as anybody else.”
Inevitably, the ‘R’ word comes up from time to time. Jockeying is not an easy way to earn a living – look at the injury lists for confirmation of that – and Johnson has this season witnessed one of his old sparring partners, Noel Fehily, call it a day. Has the 41-year-old contemplated retirement?
“I’m loving what I do and lucky to have great support from lots of people,” he said. “Noel decided it was the right time to retire, but I can’t see any reason why I can’t carry on for a good bit longer.
“When you get older, people always start to mention those things and that topic comes up, but it’s not something I’m thinking about and the main thing for me is hopefully getting a good start again from Saturday week, and doing the same as what we’ve been doing the last few years.”
Can Johnson Become the Best of All Time?
The bookies have spoken, and Johnson is just 2/1 with Coral to surpass McCoy’s all-time mark for most winners.
“When AP McCoy retired we thought he’d set a total that would remain unthreatened for many years to come but, at his current rate, Richard Johnson could be within reach in the next four or five seasons,” the firm’s spokesman, David Stevens, said.
“At 2-1, we’re certainly not ruling it out that the current champion eventually overtakes his old rival.”