Richard Johnson has warned his rivals he will not be resting on his laurels after securing a third consecutive Stobart Jump Jockeys Championship, with his sights already set on claiming title number four.
With his hunger and passion as strong as the day he started, the 40-year-old, who was presented with his trophy ahead of racing on the final day of the season at Sandown Park, hopes to continue his recent domination for as long as his body can keep up with the demands.
He said: “I’m delighted and you never get tired of winning it. I’m not even sure it has sunk in that I’ve won it once, let alone three times.
“It has been another fantastic year, but it has been slightly different in that Philip Hobbs has had a frustrating time with his horses and we have had slightly less winners together.
“That put a bit more pressure on me, but I’ve had the support from the likes of Tim Vaughan and Henry Daly and this year Olly Murphy and Warren Greatrex have been new on the roster.
“To have that back-up has been amazing and hopefully it has worked quite smoothly. A lot of that is down to Dave Roberts (agent), who does an amazing job.
“Being champion jockey, I feel very honoured and privileged. It is not going to be easy to defend, but now that I have won it for the past three seasons I don’t want to lose it.”
With no jumping until next weekend, he added: “It is lovely to have a few days off and myself and Fiona (wife) have a few days away planned.
“But May is a busy time, as there will be plenty of runners out and on Monday I will be looking at the five-day entries with Dave Roberts to see what is running at Uttoxeter and Hexham.”
When it comes to highlights, the victory of Native River in the Cheltenham Gold Cup may be the stand-out one, but for Johnson there are two achieved on a smaller stage that are equally memorable for different reasons.
He said: “Native River is an amazing horse. Rarely will a ride ever go as smoothly as I hoped or imagined it would, especially in a Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“From flag-fall to passing the winning post, everything went well. He was fantastic on the day and he jumped and travelled for me and when I asked him him for more, he gave. I was really just the man lucky enough to steer him round.
“The Gold Cup was an amazing race and for it me it is the most important race of the season. I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have done first time round, but then I didn’t think I’d have to wait 18 years for the next one!
“I had lots of other good moments. I rode a winner for mum up at Market Rasen in February on The Last Bridge and it was lovely to ride a winner for her.
“Tidal Flow won a bumper at Newbury and we bred him with Sarah Hobbs and hopefully he will be a nice horse for the future.”
With no talk of retirement and the competition for rides getting hotter each year, Johnson believes he faces challenges on more than one front if he is to retain his crown for a fourth time.
He said: “Sam Twiston-Davies has been unlucky with a couple of injuries over the last couple of years, while Harry Skelton had a fantastic season and I imagine him to be even stronger again.
“Then there is Brian Hughes and Henry Brooke, who are riding plenty of winners, as are Sean and James Bowen and then you have the likes of Daryl Jacob and Noel Fehily.
“It is very competitive and I think jump racing is in very good shape at the moment.
“I still love going racing and I get as massive a thrill and buzz from riding a winner at Hexham on a Monday or winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. There is no feeling like riding a winner.
“The most important thing now is looking forward to having another busy summer and getting plenty of winners on the board before the young ones are snapping at my heels!”