Rae Togo Johnstone Australian Jockey

Rae Togo Johnstone

Rae Togo Johnstone Amassed Over 100 Victories In The 1920-21 Season

New Lambton, New South Wales is the birthplace of record for William Raphael Johnstone (1905-1964) and the date was 13 April 1905.

His parents separated not long after his birth. He stayed with his mother in Sydney and it was Sydney where he first apprenticed as a rider in Jack Phoenix’s operation at the age of 14. It was while there that Rae “Togo” Johnstone had his first taste of victory at Rosehill racecourse in the winter of 1920.

Rae Togo Johnstone

His father Robert James Johnstone was a coalminer and his mother was Elizabeth nee Harney.

Over 100 Victories

Rae Togo Johnstone amassed over 100 victories in the 1920-21 season, but was suspended at that and subsequent times for his apparent addiction to wagering on races in which he was involved.

It was one of these suspensions in 1925 that found him getting married to Ruby Isabel Hornery-Ford. He was still an apprentice at the time and racing regulations in force meant to protect apprentices’ winnings were responsible when Rae illegally gained access to those earnings. Just two years later in 1927, he was banned for his role in a conspiracy wherein he had schemed to deliberately lose a race, and it was 1930 before he was again permitted to ride.

It would be fitting and proper if his life as a ne’er-do-well were to deprive him of his livelihood, but the opposite seems to have been the outcome.

Rae Togo Johnstone Travels To England Then France

Rae Togo Johnstone decided in 1930 to see what other parts of the world had to offer. He formed an association with fellow expatriate and trainer Alec Higgins before being offered the opportunity to ride in England. He was there only a short while before deciding that greener pastures awaited him in France, where he paired up with trainer Pierre Wertheimer.

The atmosphere in Paris was apparently to his liking what with his predilection for the high life that was a prevalent aspect of 1930s Paris. He formed a romantic relationship with one of the dancers from the infamous Folies-Bergere and was France’s leading jockey on three separate occasions in the 30s.

Rae Togo Johnstone did a little riding in England during 1934, but he continued to experience personal difficulties due his preferences for expansive living, gambling and a keen desire for fame and adulation.

Not one to heed the rumblings going on in Europe during the late 30s, he remained there at the beginning of World War II. In a rare moment of unselfishness, he applied for but was rejected by the military, as might have been his assumption given that many jockeys failed to qualify for the fighting services.

Rae Togo Johnstone Rides In India

He managed to get out of Europe to find himself riding in India for a brief spell, only to suffer the major ignominy of becoming a prisoner of war of the Italian army.

His account of a harrowing escape from a Germany bound train with the assistance of resistance fighters was probably embellished to some degree, but he did land in liberated Paris in 1944 and was again plying his trade before the hostilities in Europe were completely concluded.

1945 to 1957 proved to be very productive years for Rae Togo Johnstone, indeed.

He won the English Derby, the first Australian, if Australian he could still be considered, to do so. The French and Irish Derbys followed. He spent three years riding for Marcel Boussac, during which the year of 1950 supplied him with seven classic wins.

Rae Togo Johnstone was still doing quite well during that decade and was to win his third English Derby in 1956 whilst riding Lavandin. Apparently, he had left his immaturity behind him and became at least somewhat respectable. He would go on to win a total of 30 classic races in England, Ireland and France and eight other countries where his services were retained.

His talent seemed so prodigious that he seemed to almost share a form of telepathy with his mounts that found him seldom needing to employ the stick, so it seems that against all odds, our miscreant jockey turned his life around.

Last Ride In 1957

Rae Johnstone had his last ride at Longchamp in June of 1957 before switching to a career in training in France. His colourful story inspired a memoir in which he took offence to his nickname of “Togo,” which had been conferred upon him due to his somewhat Asian countenance that he claimed were the result of a heritage that included Irish, German, Welsh and Portuguese ancestors.

Only around 60 years of age when Rae Johnstone died in 1964 at Chantilly, France, he is commemorated as the Australian jockey whose exploits abroad were the most impressive of any other jockey; he was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2004, solid proof that redemption is possible regardless of the circumstances or the indiscretions of one’s youth.