Malcolm Johnston: Champion Australian Jockey

Malcolm Johnston was from the Theo Green School of jockeys that produced many champions like Gordon Spinks and Darren Beadman to name a few. Born in 1956, Johnston grew up in Orange, Western NSW, before joining Theo Green at Rosehill and then at Randwick. His fist victory in a big race was in the 1976 VRC Lightning Handicap on Desirable, trained by Colin Hayes. He was also a stable jockey for trainer Tommy Smith, which was the beginning of his partnership with Kingston Town.

‘Miracle’ Johnston, as he was known as, soon became a superstar in the world of racing with a record breaking partnership with Kingston Town. The duo won 25 races out of 30 which included five Group One titles when Kingstown Town was a three-year-old which included the 1980 Cox Plate. The duo almost took the 1982 Melbourne Cup but lost to Gurners Lane as Johnston admitted to starting the finishing run early, leaving Kingston Town drained towards the finishing line.

He won 3 premierships as an apprentice and finished his career with 3 Sydney premiership titles and 3 runner-up titles. In his first season as an apprentice during 1973-74, he finished second in the premiership. The next season he won the Sydney Jockeys’ Premiership title as an apprentice, breaking Jack Thompson’s record with 107.5 wins. His skills took him across the globe to England, France, Hong Kong, the Middle East, and New Zealand. At the time of retirement, Johnston had 39 Group One victories and over 2000 winners to his credit. His major wins include the Caulfield Cup, two Epsom Handicaps, two Oaks, five Derbies including the AJC and VTC Derbies, the W. S. Cox Plate, a Doncaster Handicap double, two Lightning Stakes, the 1980 Sydney Cup, the STC Tanvred Stakes, the STC Rosehill Guineas and an Adelaide Cup.

Johnston was virtually unbeatable especially during his partnership with Kingston Town from 1979-1982. He was also suspended on 56 occasions, which cost him a few titles including the 1981 MVRC Cox Plate. On one occasion, Johnston was suspended by stewards for a careless riding charge in the 1978 Wyong Cup, and he was ordered to pay $121,490 in damages to rider Glenn Frazer. Frazer sued Johnston for fractured left thigh, a severe back injury and other injuries. Johnston denied any act of negligence but the New South Wales Supreme Court ruled in Frazer’s favour. The court stated that a competitor could be held liable for an injury caused by an error of judgment.

No matter what, Malcolm Johnston was a naturally gifted jockey who later made the decision to take up training in 1997. He established his headquarters at Hawkesbury, training over 200 winners that included Stakes winners like Stella Maree and Shags. With his wealth of experience in riding he joined the team at Racing NSW as ‘Training Officer – Hunter & North West Region’, in charge of 200 trainees. The legendary rider is also a corporate speaker, known for adding a few laughs to everything he says. Naturally, Johnston statess to have been the courtroom jester in the jockey’s room.

But there is one thing that Johnston is serious about. Malcolm Johnston honestly believes that the Kingston Town should be the only yardstick for the term ‘Champion’.