First in evergreen rider’s decorated career

3 min read

Chris Johnson is a quiet and unassuming individual who has put past demons behind him to again rise to the top of his profession.

Deep into his career, the veteran New Zealand jockey will tick off another bucket list entry when he rides in Saturday’s G1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.

The 54-year-old will continue his association with the Michael and Matthew Pitman-trained Savvy Coup (NZ) (Savabeel), in which the two-time Group 1 winning mare will face the phenomenon that is Winx (Street Cry {IRE}).

Chris Johnson

Johnson is looking at that prospect in his own reserved way and is just happy to be part of the occasion.

“It’s good to have a ride in the race for the first time.” – Chris Johnson.

“It’s good to have a ride in the race for the first time,” he said. “The only other horse I’ve ridden that’s run in it was Tycoon Lil.”

Johnson enjoyed a good run back in 1998 with Tycoon Lil (NZ) (Last Tycoon {IRE}) during her 3-year-old season and partnered her on six occasions for four wins, including the G1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas and the G1 New Zealand Oaks.

When she went to Australia the following season it was Shane Dye who guided her to a Cox Plate third behind the great Might And Power (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}).

New Zealand Oaks success

As he did with Tycoon Lil, Johnson won the New Zealand Oaks aboard Savvy Coup and they doubled their top-flight tally this season with a dominant victory in the G1 Livamol Classic.

“I’m expecting another good run, she doesn’t know how to run a bad race,” Johnson said. “She’ll try hard and give it her best.

“Apparently, she travelled over well and she’s done everything right. I’ve had three rides in the Melbourne Cup and ran third and it’s great to go back and ride her.”

Part of history

He combined with Mercator (NZ) (Sea Anchor {GB}) to place in the historic running of the 1993 Cup, the first won by an international when the Dermot Weld-trained Vintage Crop (GB) (Rousillon {USA}) came, saw and conquered.

Johnson, who has also ridden more than 50 winners over hurdles, won his first jockeys’ premiership in 1995-96 with 139 winners and added a second with a tally of 112 in 2016-17.

In between times, Johnson was inactive from riding for seven years from 1998, mainly due to a party lifestyle and major weight issues that he has successfully battled back from to be among racing’s elite on Cox Plate day.

He has a career tally of 2329 winners and is one of only seven New Zealand jockeys to have passed the 2000 mark.