Johnson’s focus is passing Skelton

Richard Johnson celebrates his Cheltenham Gold Cup success on Native River.
Richard Johnson celebrates his Cheltenham Gold Cup success on Native River.
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CHAMPION jockey Richard Johnson reached another landmark in his career with his 3,500th winner.

He became only the second jump jockey in history, after the now retired Sir AP McCoy, to achieve the feat when He’s A Goer prevailed at Warwick.

Richard Johnson and Native River clear the last fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, one of 3,500 successes in the champion jockey's career.

Richard Johnson and Native River clear the last fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, one of 3,500 successes in the champion jockey's career.

The 41-year-old’s first priority is overhauling the pacesetting Harry Skelton in this season’s title race and Johnson will not relinquish his championship without fight.

Runner-up to the legendary McCoy on no fewer than 16 occasions, Johnson has been champion jockey for the past three years and capped his career by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March on the Colin Tizzard-trained staying steeplechaser Native River.

Johnson’s second win in the blue riband race after the triumph of Looks like Trouble in 2000, he is just the small matter of 843 winners adrift of McCoy’s all-time record of 4,348 victories.

While Johnson would have to remain injury-free and stay in peak condition for, potentially, three more years to reach the 4,000 winner mark – and longer if there was a chance of beating McCoy’s record – he is ruling out nothing.

“I knew I was over the 3,000 mark, but didn’t realise that I’d got there (to 3,500).

“Four thousand is still a long way away, but hopefully we can look forward to plenty more winners in the future,” said the likeable rider as he reflected upon a 24-year career in the saddle that is noteworthy for both its sheer consistency and Johnson’s good humour.

“The main aim is to be champion as many times as possible, it’s a day-in, day-out sort of thing, but you have to take each day as it comes,” he said. “I had a good month last month, and Phillip [Hobbs] is in good form.

“Being champion jockey is the best thing that I can achieve. I’m very pleased with how things are going, I just want to ride as many winners as I can. I rode 200 winners in a season once, so it would be good to do that again, but then there’s the first 100 to get out of the way first. It’s a long way off.

“A lot of jockeys are hungry to be champion, there’s a massive interest in it and lots would love to be champion. You need the firepower with the horses and the trainers.”

Record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston reached a total of 200 winners worldwide for the year when Ticklish gave him a double at Lingfield.

A month after becoming the most successful handler in the UK when Poet’s Society took his career tally to 4,194 at York, Johnston enjoyed another landmark day.

Ticklish, wearing the colours of Johnston Racing, made a winning debut after the earlier success of Living Legend.

Both were ridden by champion Flat jockey Silvestre de Sousa, who completed a treble on the card.

“It (200 total) includes three abroad, but it’s good to get the double century up again for the year. It’s fantastic,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

North Yorkshire Flat rider Tom Eaves is set for a long spell on the sidelines after breaking his leg in a fall at Newcastle.

The Group One-winning jockey sustained the injury when he was unseated from the Kevin Ryan-trained Savannah Moon a furlong and a half out. “He went for an X-ray and has got three breaks,” said his agent Richard Hale. “He’s having a full pot on his leg, so it will be a long job. He’ll be out for the rest of the season anyway.”