An Interview with Champion Jockey Dickie Johnson
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Richard ‘Dickie’ Johnson was in AP McCoy’s shadow for too long – he was runner-up to him 16 times in the Jockeys’ Championship. AP’s retirement in 2015 allowed Dickie to shine. He dually won the Jockey’s Championship the following year and another three times.
Growing up in Herefordshire, Dickie was born into a racing family. Both his grandfathers hunted regularly, his Dad was an amateur and his Mum, Sue, trained. As a boy he was a member of the Pony Club. His Mum gave him his first winner at Hereford in April 1994 on the homebred Rusty Bridge in a hunter chase. On leaving school at 16, he went to work in Gloucestershire for David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson, winning the Conditional Jockeys’ Championship in 1996. He had previously spent a week at the Duke’s on summer work experience aged 14.
Dickie's first Festival success came on Anzum in 1997, winning the Stayers’ Hurdle and he won a Champion Chase in 2002 on Flagship Uberalles and a Champion Hurdle the following year on Rooster Booster for his long-time boss Philip Hobbs. He won two Cross-Country races at the Festival in 2012 and 2014 on Balthazar King, and finished second in a Grand National. He won the Gold Cup in 2000 on Looks Like Trouble for Noel Chance and won another in 2018 on Native River. He won a second in the Welsh National in 2016. He also won a Scottish Grand National on Beshabar.
Dickie still lives in Herefordshire with his wife Fiona, daughter of trainer Noel Chance, and their three children, Willow, Caspar and Percy. He was awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year Honours List for services to horseracing.
What was your favourite pony growing up? Tasty, she was like a mini racehorse! She was a brilliant all-round pony. Although she wasn’t keen on dressage which suited me.
What is your favourite memory of working for the Duke? There’s so many to choose from – probably a lot which couldn’t be printed! He told great stories on the way racing and always loved to hear the yard gossip as well!
What car do you drive at the present and what car would you prefer to be driving?! I drive an Audi A6! But I was very lucky to have a Bentley Bentayga on loan. That’s definitely the car I’d have! I had a look around the Bentley factory, it’s incredible to see how much work goes in to making them.
What is your favourite racehorse? I’ve been really lucky to ride some incredible horses but I have to say Looks Like Trouble – he lives with us at home and is now 28. But I also have to mention Menorah and Native River!
What is your favourite meal? Rare Herefordshire Fillet Steak with Béarnaise sauce.
What is your favourite drink? A good glass of red wine.
Who do you admire the most in racing? The Duke – he taught me so much and set me on the right path. Philip Hobbs- I couldn’t find a better person to work for! I’ve been with Philip for the best part of 20 years! He is such a level person and great on the bad days as well as the good days.
Will you miss Barry Geraghty?! Yes! It’s always sad when a jockey retires. Barry was hard to beat but great to ride with.
What is the best advice you can give? You have to work hard because you only get out what you put in! I’m also a big believer in the saying ‘it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.’
Are you superstitious? I always salute magpies when I see them.
Photo Credit: Chepstow Racecourse
Was there any difference in riding a Gold Cup winner 18 years apart? Both were amazing and I think I definitely appreciated it more the second time round! In 2000, I didn’t realise how lucky I was just to even have a ride in the Gold Cup.
How was Lockdown? It was strange times for everyone but I really enjoyed spending time at home. Although having to home-school three kids is not something I wish to do ever again!! I have a huge amount of respect for teachers.