It used to be that AP McCoy was the greatest jockey to have never won the Aintree Grand National. But he put paid to that title in 2010 when he won on Don’t Push It after 15 attempts. These days the honour goes to Richard Johnson, a fantastic rider in his own right, but one who never managed to claim the glory at Aintree.
Aside from McCoy, only Richard Johnson has secured more National Hunt winners, over 3,500 of them, more than any rider in the history of horse racing. But, despite this, he finished runner-up 16 times to McCoy in the top Jump Jockey Championship stakes before McCoy retired.
However, he eventually got his hands on the Champion Jockey crown in 2016 and won it four times. He was only usurped once by Brian Hughes in 2020.
Richard Johnson was a formidable jockey who won all four championship races at Cheltenham during his career. That includes the 2000 Gold Cup on Looks Like Trouble and the Champion Hurdle three years later with Rooster Booster. He also won the 2018 Gold Cup on Native River.
Richard Johnson Grand National Record
Johnson first tackled the Aintree Grand National fences in 1997. On board Celtic Abbey for trainer Venetia Williams, he was unseated at the 15th fence.
He rode in every single Grand National after that, up until 2016. Unfortunately, the majority resulted in a mix of falling, pulling up, and being unseated.
His best finishes came in 2002 on What’s Up Boys when he finished second. History repeated itself in 2014 on Balthazar King who also finished second. It was the cloest Johnson ever came to winning the title.
Richard Johnson did not ride in either the 2017 or 2018 Grand Nationals.
But he was back again in 2019 and on board the 20/1 shot Rock The Kasbah for trainer Philip Hobbs. It was the champion jockey’s 21st attempt at the Grand National without a win. A dubious record to hold and one that still stands as Rock The kasbah and Johnson were brought down at fence 18.
The 2020 Grand National was canceled and on 3rd April 2021 Johnson announced his immediate retirement at a meeting at Newton Abbot. That meant no run in the 2021 National and as such Johnson’s career ended without that one missing piece in what was otherwise a glittering career.
In a racing career that spanned three decades, Johnson called it a day on April 3rd 2021. He issued a statement that went as follows:
“After nearly 30 years in the saddle, the time has come for me to retire.
“I have been so extraordinarily lucky to have ridden so many wonderful horses, and for so many incredible trainers and owners.
“It was particularly important to me to finish on one for Philip and Sarah Hobbs who, like Henry Daly, have supported me for over 20 years. I’ll never be able to articulate what their loyalty has meant to me.
“The truth is there are simply too many people to thank on an individual basis, but you know who you are and what you mean to me.
“To all horseracing fans who we have missed so much this year on our racecourses. Thank you for every cheer, every shout of encouragement, it’s given me enormous strength over the years. I am so very grateful to you all.
“To my wonderful family, thank you so much. Mum, Dad and my brother Nick who have always been by my side. Finally, to my wife Fiona and amazing children Willow, Caspar and Percy. Without you nothing would have been possible.”