Rae “Togo” Johnstone Australian Jockey

Rae “Togo” Johnstone Australian Jockey

Rae “Togo” Johnstone, full name William Raphael Johnstone (1905-1964).

Rae “Togo” Johnstone was born at New Lambton, NSW on 13 April 1905, his father was coalminer Robert James Johnstone and his mother Elizabeth, ńee Harney. His parents separated, at which time Rae lived in Sydney with his mother.

He apprenticed to trainer Jack Phoenix at the age of 14 and rode his first winner at Rosehill race course in the winter of 1920. He rode over 100 winners in the 1920-21 season but ran into issues with racing stewards due to his proclivity for wagering, a fault which cost him more than one suspension.

Rae “Togo” Johnstone married Ruby Isabel Hornery-Ford in 1925 while he was serving a suspension of several months for having illegally gained access to his earnings, which were protected due to his apprentice status. In 1927, he received a ban of two years' duration for his role in a conspiracy to lose a race. He did not resume his riding career until 1930.

It was at this point that Rae “Togo” Johnstone decided to try his luck abroad. He linked up with expatriate trainer Alec Higgins before being offered rides in England for Sir Vector Sassoon. He persisted in that for only a short while before deciding that his interests would be better served by an association with Pierre Wertheimer in France.

Paris life was to his liking, as one might expect, given his prior history. Johnstone forged a romantic relationship with a dancer for the Folies-Bergére. He tasted considerable success in France as that country's leading jockey on three occasions during the 1930s.

He also won in England in 1934, but continued to suffer from his affinity for expansive living, casinos, and perhaps most significantly, his compulsion for fame and notoriety.

Rae “Togo” Johnstone foolishly remained in Europe at the outbreak of WWII. He was rejected for military service, a fate not uncommon amongst jockeys, and then rode in India briefly before becoming an Italian prisoner of war in 1942.

True to his nature, his description of his release was somewhat far-fetched, claiming that he had escaped from a train bound for Germany with the assistance of resistance fighters who helped him get to liberated Paris in 1944. By mid-December of that year, before the war in Europe had concluded, Rae “Togo” Johnstone was racing again.

The period between the end of the war and the next 12 years were Johnstone's most productive. Rae “Togo” Johnstone became the first Australian jockey to win the English Derby.

He added the French and Irish Derbies to his resume. He eventually served for three years with Marcel Boussac, capturing seven classic wins in 1950 alone. Still producing in 1956, Rae “Togo” Johnstone earned his third English Derby aboard Lavandin. It seems that by this time, Togo had achieved a level of maturity that had been conspicuously absent in his earlier years.

He won thirty classic races in England, Ireland and France and rode well in eight other countries as well. He seemingly developed such a bond with his mounts that he was rarely seen to employ the whip.

Rae “Togo” Johnstone took his last ride in June of 1957 at Longchamp. He then trained horses in France.

In his memoirs, he mentioned being offended by his nickname “Togo” claiming that his Asian looks were the result of a mixed descent including Irish, German, Welsh and Portuguese blood.

Rae “Togo” Johnstone died 29 April 1964 at Chantilly, France. He is commemorated as the most successful Australian jockey who ever plied his trade abroad and he was inducted in the Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.

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