Richard Johnson’s fellow great jockeys Sir Anthony McCoy and Ruby Walsh led the tributes to the four-time champion following his retirement.
McCoy has repeatedly insisted he would never have set the records he managed in his career without Johnson pushing him all the way.
When McCoy retired after his 20 jockeys’ titles, it left the way clear for perennial runner-up Johnson to finally win the crown, and he managed another three before injury and the pandemic halted him in his tracks last season.
McCoy told Great British Racing: “On a professional level I probably got to know him better than anyone – and he’s a brilliant man to be around, a fantastic jockey and unbelievably competitive.
“He also has a great work ethic and is the fairest jockey you could ever ride against, so he has deserved all of his success.
“As I’ve said many times, having Richard to compete against for all of those years definitely made me a better jockey. But however good a jockey you think he is, he’s an even better person.”
McCoy also earlier tweeted: “Sometimes those who challenge us the most teach us the best.
“You did both to me for over 20 years – I will be forever grateful to you, thanks buddy. When you go home tonight, look in the mirror you’ll see what a champion looks like. Enjoy your retirement.”
Walsh made his admiration clear too.
He said: “What everyone knows about Richard Johnson is what an excellent jockey he is and what a great asset he is to racing.
“But what they might not know so much is that he is also a hard man, who has toughness and determination and an incredible pain threshold, as well as being a thoroughly decent human being.”
Johnson enjoyed many great days alongside trainer Henry Daly and still rode out for him on a weekly basis.
Daly believes it will be “impossible” to replace Johnson, who rode big winners for him on the likes of Mighty Man, Behrajan, Hand Inn Hand and Young Spartacus.
“It’s impossible to give a ‘quick tribute’ about Richard, I could go on forever,” said Daly.
“He’s been part of the fixtures and fittings here for 23 years. Every Tuesday morning he turns up – even when I don’t ask him to!
“His work ethic was unbelievable, and his attitude to the job was just incredible. It’s so hard to think of the right words that sum up a man like this.
“You will read endless quotes about what a nice guy he is, but that is because he is. I can honestly say in 23 years we never had a crossed word – which is astonishing because I’m a grumpy git!
“He never says no to anybody. It really is the mark of the man.
“I have a picture on my wall of when Mighty Man won as a novice at Aintree – where he was very good – and Dicky is up between his ears, that just sums them both up. They were a match made in heaven.
“People will say he leaves a void, but for Philip Hobbs and myself we won’t fill it – we will change what we do because of him. It’s impossible to replace him.”
Four-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson is another who is grateful to have seen Johnson’s dedication at first hand.
“He spent all those years in AP’s shadow, but if anything he has developed further as a jockey since AP’s retirement,” said Henderson.
“The input that he gives you is enormous, and his work ethic is unbelievable – he’ll go to Timbuktu for a ride. He’s tireless and a true asset to racing.”
Johnson’s weighing-room colleagues were also generous in their praise.
Tom Scudamore tweeted: “Simply the finest bloke and friend you could wish to have. When I grow up, I want to be like Richard Johnson.”
Aidan Coleman said: “Richard Johnson has been my hero from when he spoke to me on my first ever ride, can’t find the words to describe what he means to me from both a personal and professional point of view.”
Sam Twiston-Davies said: “Can’t believe the news, @dickyjohnson77 not just a legend but a hero to so many. Not just one of the best in the world, but also one of the nicest. Happy retirement #hero.”
Harry Skelton, who is battling to be champion jockey this year, added: “Words wouldn’t be able to describe how good a person Richard Johnson is. He is the ultimate role model to any human in general life, not just a jockey. Happy retirement @dickyjohnson77 #champion.”
Daryl Jacob said: “It’s been an absolute privilege to ride against @dickyjohnson77 throughout my career. A wonderful jockey and a real gentleman. Wishing him all the very best in the future.”
Jonjo O’Neill jnr, last year’s champion conditional, said: “The ultimate role model to anyone growing up. So determined, yet so humble and gracious.
“People like him just aren’t made every day. Strong as an ox, the ultimate champion. Just an unbelievable man.”
Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Paul Struthers added in a statement: “Dickie took over as Jumps President following AP McCoy’s retirement and has been actively involved in the PJA ever since.
“He is the nicest, kindest, most professional jockey I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with – and on both a personal and professional level, I am delighted he is retiring from the saddle on his own terms.
“I cannot think of a single person who would have a bad word to say about him.
“Yet while there’s a common saying that nice guys don’t win, Dickie has been at the top of his profession for close to 30 years – and only someone as remarkable as AP McCoy prevented him from being champion jump jockey more than the four times he was.
“He was the most amazing role model to other jockeys – incredibly professional in every aspect and a great communicator.
“Like so many senior jockeys before him, Dickie didn’t look out for just himself. He was passionate about the plight of all jockeys and was an excellent and active president of the PJA.
“He’s devoted himself to the racing industry and thoroughly deserves to enjoy a happy retirement from the saddle with his family. We and his colleagues will miss him terribly.”