Riding legend Chris Johnson provided racing fans with another magic moment when he claimed his 2500th New Zealand winner at Invercargill on Thursday.
Johnson, 57, who last season established a new record for New Zealand wins, guided the Michael House-trained Lincoln Hills to success in the Ascot Sports Bar Handicap (1200m).
It was a typically patient Johnson ride as he bided his time back in midfield behind a torrid early pace before unleashing the All Too Hard seven-year-old for an irresistible finish, scoring by 1.25 lengths.
And typically Johnson was equally as humble afterwards – and concise with his words.
“It’s good but it is just a number, isn’t it?” Johnson said.
“What it shows more than anything is that racing has been very good to me. It’s nice to get any winner but I can tell you number 2501 will be even better.”
Reaching 2500 wins is the latest milestone for Johnson in a career littered with memorable achievements.
His journey began with a winner at his first ride on New Year’s Day 1981, guiding Noble Star to success at Tauherenikau for his boss, Woodville trainer Scott Hammersley.
He has gone on to win two jockeys’ premierships, in 1995-96 and in 2017-18, and has 21 Group One wins to his credit, spanning from Canterbury Belle’s New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) win at Riccarton in 1984 to Savvy Coup’s Livamol Classic (2040m) success at Hastings in 2018.
He has won the New Zealand 1000 Guineas four times but has eclipsed that record with five wins in the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham, aboard Domino in 1990, Tartan Tights in 1995, Sawatdee in 1997, Tycoon Lil in 1998 and Savvy Coup in 2018.
Among Johnson’s most memorable wins were the 1992 Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham aboard Hall of Fame galloper Rough Habit and the 1200m Group One double of the Railway and Telegraph on Loader in 1996.
Another feature of Johnson’s big race record is his three wins in the Grand National Hurdles (4200m) at Riccarton, aboard Ampac in 1989, Woodbine Blue Chip in 1993 and Kid Colombus in 2011.
He took a break from riding for seven years in 1998.