Continuing his series of profiles the UK and Ireland's leading jockeys as we build up towards the 2016 Grand National, Russell Smith takes a look at the career of Richard Johnson...
"The champion-elect is in line for his 20th ride in the Aintree spectacular on April 9, having finished second twice - on What's Up Boys to Bindaree in 2002 and aboard Balthazar King behind Pineau De Re in 2014."
Thundering down to the last fence there's no jockey punters have wanted on their side more this season than Richard Johnson.
With his great rival, the 20-times champion Tony McCoy, retiring in April last year, perennial runner-up Johnson has grasped his chance to claim the crown in stunning fashion.
Having clocked up his first double-century of winners in a season, the 38-year-old Herefordshire-based rider looks assured of a richly-deserved first title after finishing second on no fewer than 16 occasions.
With that lifetime ambition set to be achieved, Johnson will also be hoping to end his long wait for an elusive first Crabbie's Grand National winner.
The champion-elect is in line for his 20th ride in the Aintree spectacular on April 9, having finished second twice - on What's Up Boys to Bindaree in 2002 and aboard Balthazar King behind Pineau De Re in 2014.
His mount this time is due to be Kruzhlinin - a 20/1 chance with Betfair - for Philip Hobbs' Bilbrook yard, near Minehead, where he is stable jockey.
As just a seven-year-old, when trained by Donald McCain, the gelding twice demonstrated his ability to handle the big fences in 2014 by finishing tenth to Pineau De Re in the National and seventh to Oscar Time in the Becher Chase.
This term, Kruzhlinin won impressively on his return at Kempton in January before finishing fifth behind Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, with Johnson on board both times.
Hailing from a racing family with his father, Keith, an amateur jockey and his mother, Sue, training racehorses, Johnson's future was always likely to lie in the sport.
Having started off in point-to-points, his first winner under National Hunt rules fittingly came at his local Hereford track on 25/1 shot Rusty Bridge in April 1994.
During school holidays he worked for David Nicholson at Jackdaws Castle in Temple Guiting, near Cheltenham. And when his education ended, he joined the two-time champion trainer, capturing the conditional jockeys' title in 1995 under his tutelage.
It was also 'The Duke' who provided Johnson with the first of his 20 Cheltenham Festival winners when Anzum landed the 1999 Stayers' Hurdle (now World Hurdle).
A year later it got even better for Johnson when he partnered Looks Like Trouble to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Upper Lambourn trainer Noel Chance.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase followed in 2002 aboard the Hobbs-trained Flagship Uberalles.
Twelve months on the pair combined again as Johnson completed the set of the Festival's four main championship races by powering Rooster Booster up the hill to take the Champion Hurdle.
Other big-race wins have seen him capture the 1999 Welsh National on the Henry Daly-trained Edmond and the 2011 Scottish Grand National aboard Beshabar for Tim Vaughan's Glamorgan yard.
In 2003, he clocked up his 1,000th winner over jumps in Britain on Quedex at Stratford.
Further landmarks followed with his 2,000th career winner coming aboard Fighting Chance at Newbury in 2009, before he reached 3,000 on St Saviour at Ludlow in January this year.
Having notched a century of winners for each of the last 20 seasons, another milestone arrived in the same month when Duke Des Champs gave him his 3,000th winner over jumps in Britain and Ireland.
That figure makes him the second most successful jump jockey of all-time behind McCoy.
And with the winners continuing to flow, Johnson, who lives at Pembridge, near Leominster, is showing no signs of letting up as he prepares to be crowned champion at Sandown on April 23.
Check out Russell's profile of Ruby Walsh