Richard Johnson: Champion jump jockey hopes to maintain dominance

Richard Johnson on Native River
Native River won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March in a thrilling finish

Richard Johnson says he is already targeting a fourth jump jockeys' championship after collecting the trophy for the third time at Sandown Park on Saturday.

The 40-year-old - perennial runner-up to Sir AP McCoy - has dominated since his rival's retirement in 2015.

"I'm delighted and you never get tired of winning it," he said.

"I'm not even sure it has sunk in that I've won it once, let alone three times."

Johnson was presented with his trophy before the season finale, with Nicky Henderson receiving the top trainer's title and highly rated 17-year-old Sean Bowen the award for the leading conditional jockey.

Henderson enjoyed a four-timer at Sandown, with the Celebration Chase victory of champion chaser Altior accompanied by wins for Top Notch, Call Me Lord and Soul Emotion.

The 7-1 chance Step Back took the Bet365 Gold Cup under Jamie Moore for trainer Mark Bradstock, who indicated the winner would be aimed at next year's Grand National.

Rock The Kasbah was second, ahead of Present Man and Relentless Dreamer.

At the start of Saturday's meeting, Johnson had ridden 176 winners, 34 clear of nearest rival Brian Hughes.

"I feel very honoured and privileged," he said. "It is not going to be easy to defend, but now that I have won it for the past three seasons I don't want to lose it.

"It is very competitive and I think jump racing is in very good shape at the moment.

"I still love racing and I get as massive a thrill and buzz from riding a winner at Hexham on a Monday as winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. There is no feeling like riding a winner."

Sean Bowen is presented with his honour by Richard Johnson
Johnson presented Sean Bowen with his conditional jockeys' honour

Johnson's highest-profile victory of the season was on board Native River in last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup and he admits it gave him a real thrill.

"Native River is an amazing horse," he said. "Rarely will a ride ever go as smoothly as I hoped or imagined it would, especially in a Cheltenham Gold Cup.

"From flag-fall to passing the winning post, everything went well. He was fantastic on the day and he jumped and travelled for me and when I asked him him for more, he gave. I was really just the man lucky enough to steer him round.

"The Gold Cup was an amazing race and for it me it is the most important race of the season. I didn't appreciate as much as I should have done first time round, but then I didn't think I'd have to wait 18 years for the next one!"

Analysis

Horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

Fitting enough to end the jumps season with the now five-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson enjoying success in four out of the seven races.

One of them with one of his real stars in Altior as well as the winner of the feature chase, Step Back, putting in a display of jumping that was among the most outstanding seen all season.

Altior was not at his brilliant best, but he didn't need to be, and still won with a degree of authority especially considering a less than straightforward campaign that didn't start until February.

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