Bossier City Resident Reached Milestone in a Career Which Spans Four Decades
Vinton, LA – Never one for the limelight, trainer Henry B. Johnson quietly reached a career milestone on Friday, November 3 at Delta Downs when City Ghost rallied for the win under jockey Angel Suarez in the seventh race. It was victory number 1,000 for the 82-year-old conditioner who has been training Thoroughbreds since 1983.
“It’s nice to get it out of the way, because it was a long time getting it done,” said Johnson. “She’s a well-bred horse and has been developing nicely.”
Breeder and owner Russell Welch and his wife, Janis, were at Delta Downs for the win by their filly by Shaman Ghost out of the City Zip mare Zip Her Up. Welch, who also has horses in Kentucky with Larry Jones, has trusted Johnson with his Texas and Louisiana-breds for the past seven years.
“He was sort of humbled by it all,” noted Welch of the post-race presentation. “We are both rodeo cowboys and H.B. does an outstanding job breaking babies. He did tell me that evening that reaching the milestone would never have been possible without the support of his owners.”
Johnson concurred with Welch, citing Dennis Milligan, Jerry Myers, Greg Hoffman, Jerry Chiles, David and Susan Bunn as well as Paul and Marianne Phillips as a few of his longtime owners.
“I have been fortunate to have great owners who understand the importance of patience,” acknowledged Johnson.
Greg Hoffman (Hoffman Family Racing, LLC) shared his history with the Louisiana horseman.
“I had horses in training with Chris Candies and when he decided to get out of the business, he introduced me to H.B.,” said Hoffman. “He has always put his horses first; will back off if needed and has a wonderful team with him at the Hurricane Bluff Training Center.”
Earlier this year, Johnson and Hoffman teamed up with Meant for Me, who won a turf sprint on March 31 at Sam Houston Race Park giving veteran jockey Stewart Eliott his 5,500th career milestone.
Prior to his training career, Johnson was a rodeo competitor specializing in-bull and steer riding. One of his closest friends on the rodeo circuit was Hall of fame conditioner Carl Nafzger, who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby with Unbridled
“He was a tremendous bull rider,” said Johnson.
Early mentors for Johnson included Tater Whatley and Larry Lyle.
In a career that spans four decades with success at a number of Texas and Louisiana racetracks, Johnson has saddled 6,486 horses whose earnings surpassed $15 million. Top earners included Albert’s First ($477,318); Wa Bert($356,488); Political Whit ($347,190); Icy Gentleman (($320,795) and Jimi’s a Star ($314,060).
No graded stakes winners for Johnson, but he has fond memories of many of his trainees, regardless of their number of wins or earnings.
“I’ve had some tricky horses,” said Johnson. “Wicked Rose was a bit of a surprise; loved to come from way out of it. Jimi’s Star retired sound and has become a hunter/jumper.”
Johnson and his wife, Jinnie, reside in Bossier City. They have three adult children: Hank, Josie and Kevin. Johnson has 18 horses at Delta Downs and ten in training at Hurricane Bluff. He credits his wife, who is a major part of his operation, assistant trainer Jose Gomez and Oscar Nunez, who hails as the “backbone” of the stable’s grooms.
Retirement is not on the immediate radar for Johnson, who will turn 83 in January.
“I like doing what I do and can’t think of anything else I would enjoy as much as this,” stated Johnson.
Martha Claussen has been involved in the racing industry since 1997. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana, Indiana and other regions in North America.