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Jim Johnson - A Gentleman Jockey

Jim Johnson, he rode three Melbourne Cup winners on two horses, Gatum Gatum and Rain Lover twice, in 1968 and 1969.

He has just celebrated his 90th birthday a few weeks ago, and is wearing well; he can still crack a joke.

Jim retired from race riding when he reached 47 years of age, generally most jockeys’ call it quits around that age, although the late Jack Thompson didn’t call it a day until he turned 60.

Jim was just a four year old lad when his father, Alf, a successful jockey, was killed in a race fall at Oakbank in 1934.

His mother later married Charlie Cox, a prominent jockey; the family moved to Western Australia where Cox was riding quiet a lot of winners.    

Jim finally returned to Adelaide to be with his grandmother, he was a caring young man and she was good to him, there were no visions of becoming a jockey at that stage.

When a knock came to the door a fellow asked, “is Alf Johnson’s son staying with you?” “Yes he is” was the reply.

It was Stan Chapman, a horse trainer at Morphettville, he invited Jim to go down and see the stables, but that was all, nothing was mentioned about becoming a jockey.

Stan was playing it cool, no pressure applied, they both got on well together, it was just a matter of time before Jim Johnson was apprenticed to Stan Chapman and not long before he out rode his claim.     

Yes, Jim Johnson was a great jockey, however, he seemed to be reluctant to leave Adelaide, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and Jim was very loyal, he didn’t chase rides, they came to him.

Originally Les Coles was engaged to ride Gatum Gatum in the Melbourne Cup, however, after what was a poor run in the Moonee Valley Cup Coles preferred to ride Conference.

Jim didn’t chase the ride on Gatum Gatum, it was the owner, Malcolm Reid, that did the chasing, Jim was a light weight and very strong, plus an excellent judge of pace, and would suit Gatum Gatum.

After the celebration Jim returned to Adelaide doing what he does best, riding winners, the Melbourne Cup was as far away as ever.

Gatum Gatum returned the following year, and so did Jim, but 12 months is a long time in racing and a lot of water had flowed under the bridge, Gatum Gatum was only a shadow of his former self.

When Jim thought the Melbourne Cup could have been only a dream, up popped Rain Lover, he didn’t win once, he won it twice.

The winning margin was 8 lengths the first time, the second time, with an additional stone to shoulder, the margin was a head.

Rain Lover was a great favourite, as was Tobin Bronze, who bowed out of racing in the spring of 1967 having won six races in succession, the Doncaster Hcp, All Aged Stakes, Nulla Nulla Hcp.,Toorak Hcp., the Caulfield Cup was the swansong.

Tobin Bronze was sold to American interests, soon after Jim went across to ride him for one race, the horse failed; no more was heard of him after that.

Jim has long retired to the western suburbs of Melbourne, rarely goes racing these days, but has wonderful memories of an excellent career in racing.

Jim Johnson MobileJim Johnson with one of three Melbourne Cups


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