Richard Johnson – Cheltenham Festival Legend
Richard Johnson was born into a family with a rich horse racing heritage in 1977. He began riding horses at an early age, and claims to have first ridden horses at the age of four. Both Johnson’s father and grandfather were involved in the National Hunt circuit, both starting as jockeys before turning their hands to training.
Richard Johnson rode is first winner, Rusty Bridge, at Hereford in the Next Generation Hunters’ Chase whilst still at school. After finishing school Richard Johnson turned to jockeying full time, and soon came to the attention of legendary trainer David Nicholson who became a mentor to the young jockey.
For the first five years of his racing career Richard Johnson was forced to make do with a succession of wins in smaller races, waiting patiently for the opportunity to make his presence felt at the highest levels of National Hunt competition.
Johnson achieved his first win at the Cheltenham Festival in 1999, winning one of the event’s most challenging races, the Stayers’ Hurdle, on the classy racehorse Anzum. His excellent performance in the Stayers’ Hurdle earned Johnson the award for Ride of the Year from the racing fraternity.
In 2000 Richard Johnson, Cheltenham Festival legend, continued to raise his performances. During the 2000 Cheltenham Festival Johnson claimed his first major title, winning the meetings showpiece, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on Looks Like Trouble. Despite his success at the event Johnson was unable to fulfill his ultimate ambition of winning the Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey title.
The Cheltenham Festival was cancelled in 2001 due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom. To make matters worse Johnson broke his leg at Exeter in November putting himself out of racing for three months.
These setbacks failed to stall Richard Johnson’s progress, and in 2002 the young jockey was back in the saddle and raced two winners at the 2002 Cheltenham Festival to claim the Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey title. Six months later Richard Johnson broke his leg again at Newton Abbot.
Despite his injuries, Richard Johnson remained a potent force and in 2003 claimed another four wins at the Cheltenham Festival including the challenging Champion Hurdle. During recent years Richard Johnson, Cheltenham Festival legend, has looked to be one of the few jockeys capable of challenging the great Tony McCoy for the title of Champion Jockey.