RICHARD Johnson, the four times champion jump jockey retired from racing with immediate effect, making the surprise announcement after his final ride on Brother Tedd at Newton Abbot on Saturday, writes Graham Saveker

The 43-year-old, from Pembridge, said: “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.”

From his early local point to point rides and his first winner under rules at his local Hereford course on Rusty Bridge on April 30, 1994, it was clear that Johnson's talent would take him far and he has consistently been one of the top jockeys in the country.

Although starting out with trainer David Nicholson and scoring a big race success for him on Anzum in the 1997 Stayers hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, many of Johnson’s highest-profile winners came for trainer Phillip Hobbs, including on Rooster Booster in the 2003 Champion Hurdle but the two Cheltenham winners, Looks Like Trouble in 2000 and Native River in 2018 hold special places in his heart; with the first winner for his now father in law Noel Chance.

Johnson added: “There are so many people to thank who have been part of my journey. Without ‘the Duke’ (trainer David Nicholson) and Dinah Nicholson and their remarkable staff, I’d never have got that first leg up.

“Noel Chance, Peter Bowen and Milton Bradley – thank you for putting your trust in me when I was starting out. Those were the days that shaped my career, with so many people who remain lifelong friends.

“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 jockeys past and present who I’ve shared weighing-room benches with up-and-down the country, to the valets who have looked after me, to the doctors who’ve patched me up and to the physios who’ve put me back together.

“Without (agent) Dave Roberts, I’d have never ridden as many winners - and without the help of physio Kate Davis in recent years, I wouldn’t physically have been able to. I salute you all.”

Johnson's rivalry with Tony (AP) McCoy was a perennial theme for many years and he suffered the frustration of finishing runner-up to the 20-time champion jockey on 16 occasions but following his great rival’s retirement, he too made the title his own for four successive years, from 2015/16 to 2018/19 dominating the sport and his rivals.

Johnson also thanked his family and sponsors who have supported him throughout his career, his father Keith, himself a successful point to point jockey trains and farms with Johnson's mother Sue and brother Nick at Bridge Sollars near Hereford but Johnson paid special tribute to his wife Fiona and his children.

“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."

He also praised his legions of supporters, adding :

“To all horse racing 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.”