Malcolm Johnston Australian Jockey
Malcolm Johnston Retires With 39 Group 1 Wins Including 2 Epsom Handicaps & Doncasters
The total is greater than the sum of the parts would seem applicable to horse racing for those incidents where a great horse polished the reputation of a great jockey or a great jockey made the most of his time astride a true champion thoroughbred.
That is the lead in to our examination of a combination that occupies a special position on the pinnacle of Australian racing history:
Almost everyone with any interest whatsoever in racing is familiar with the great thoroughbred and accounts of career are numerous, so our focus will be on the rider at this time.
Here is a brief look at Johnston and an attempt to put a perspective on his record and better determine where he fits with regard to racing history.
Kingston Town And Malcolm Johnston
To begin with, here are some of the details of the Kingston Town and Malcolm Johnston partnership.
The two first met in 1979. When Kingston Town retired, he had made 41 starts, of which he won 30 and placed in 9, with only two unplaced finishes to mildly tarnish his record.
Of those two, the first was as a two-year-old, hardly noteworthy, but the other was a dismal 20 th in the 1981 Melbourne Cup. In his defense for that occasion, it could fairly be said that his allotment was excessive due to his reputation and he may have been suffering from some ailment or another that precluded his performing up to his ability.
It also must be noted that he has, in winning three successive W.S. Cox Plates, tallied an unequaled feat to go along with the rest of his remarkable record.
Of those 30 wins, Malcolm Johnston was aboard for 25, including the first Cox Plate in 1980. He was also the rider of record for four other Group 1 wins during that season.
These accomplishments had the obvious impact of boosting Johnston to a record that stands any scrutiny that could be applied. He rode in 12 Melbourne Cups and accumulated over 2000 wins riding in not only Australia, but in many foreign countries, and did this in spite of being suspended on more than 50 occasions for various infractions that sidelined him for varying amounts of time.
Johnston also has three Sydney jockeys’ premierships as an apprentice, and won the senior premiership while still an apprentice when he rode a record establishing 107.5 winners.
Sydney Premierships x 3
With his senior license secured, Malcolm Johnston would gather another three Sydney premierships, the last coming at an advanced stage of his career when most felt he was merely hanging on for dear life.
Johnston was always one to deflect credit from himself in an unassuming fashion and the tale of the 1982 Melbourne Cup provides an apt example of this.
The two came into November of 1982 with high expectations. Kingston Town was winding down and seemingly through winning, but prior to the Cup, he had posted a phenomenal come from behind victory in the Cox Plate that was beyond incredulity, so much so that even legendary race caller Bill Collins had been heard to loudly proclaim to his entire audience that Kingston Town could not possibly win.
The Accurate One, as Collins was known, was far from accurate on this call.
Johnston was not riding Kingston Town for that race. Peter Cook instead was the recipient of the great horse’s performance, but whether this was due to ineligibility on Johnston’s part or if he had simply gotten on the wrong side of T.J. Smith is anyone’s guess.
Whatever the case might have been, Malcolm Johnston was eligible and enough in Smith’s good graces that he received the assignment to ride Kingston Town in the 1982 Cup.
It would be wonderful if this reunion had a storybook ending, but horse racing does not always oblige, and a brilliant ride by Mick Dittman on Gurners Lane proved too much for Kingston Town and Malcolm Johnston to overcome.
Afterward, it was Johnston who accepted the blame, even though Kingston Town might have been suffering from some form of the leg ailments that had consistently plagued him.
Malcolm Johnston Takes Blame
Johnston told all concerned that he had sent the horse too soon and had totally depleted him just short of the finish. He is quoted as saying, “Everything went according to plan. Except getting beat by a neck. In our game, you win by a neck, you’re a superstar. You get beat by a neck, you’re a mug.”
Those words rang true prior and are still applicable today, as they will be in the future of any competition that relegates second place finishers to forgotten status.
The consequence of that narrow defeat for Malcolm Johnston was that he lost his position in T.J. Smith’s stable to Mick Dittman.
He seemed to have little difficulty taking his demotion in stride, however, further evidence of the strength of his character. He was to put the event into a keen perspective by discussing how all it was that he lost was a horse race, unlike any number of his comrades who had lost their lives as a result of horse racing.
This perspective would seem entirely appropriate, even coming from a rider with something of a bad-boy image for his numerous suspensions.
When Malcolm Johnston retired from riding, he had 39 Group 1 wins to his credit, including doubles in the Epsom Handicap and the Doncaster as well, and including two victories in the AJC Oaks.
Malcolm Johnston remained in the field of racing as a trainer and supplied over 200 winners.
Some of his notable charges were Shags and Stella Maree. He also served as a jockey training officer for New South Wales and he rounds out his schedule as a poplar corporate speaker.