Born in Parramatta in 1956, and raised in Forbes, Malcolm Johnston entered the stables of Sydney trainer, Theo Green, as a stable hand in 1971. Eighteen months later he was indentured to Green as an apprentice, and in September,1973, rode his first metropolitan winner at Rosehill.
A tremendously gifted young rider, Johnston was one of the most successful apprentices in Australian turf history. In his first full season in 1973-74 he rode 40 winners on Sydney tracks. In 1974-75 he was the leading apprentice with 65 wins. In 1975-76 his total of 107 ½ wins gained him both the apprentices’ and the senior jockeys’ premierships, and broke the record for wins by an apprentice of 106 set by Jack Thompson in 1940-41. He added his third apprentices’ title in 1976-77 with 67 ½ wins. Johnston’s dominance was such that the AJC was moved to amend its Rules of Racing. Existing Rules permitted apprentices to claim an allowance of 1.5 kg until they completed their indentures. The new Rule provided that apprentices would lose their claim when they had ridden 60 winners. Johnston had already won 195 metropolitan races before the AJC adopted the new Rule.
Johnston completed his apprenticeship in October, 1977, and immediately began riding trackwork for trainer Tommy Smith. In January, 1978, he replaced Kevin Langby as principal rider for Smith’s Tulloch Lodge, a position he held until 1983. With Smith he enjoyed great success, winning another Sydney premiership in 1977-78 with 115 wins, and four times being runner-up. He would probably have won more premierships but for his time-off due to injury and his frequent bouts of suspension – more than 50 throughout his career. Among his many feature race wins were Caulfield, Sydney and Adelaide Cups, a Cox Plate, Doncaster Handicap, three Epsom Handicaps, and AJC, QTC and WATC Derbies. Altogether, he had 141 metropolitan stakes winners, 37 at Group 1 level. The highpoint of his career was his association with the champion Kingston Town, on whom he won 25 of that horse’s 30 victories.
In 1983 Johnston broke with Tommy Smith and took up a contract to ride in Singapore. Returning to Australia in 1985 he quickly re-established himself, and won his third Sydney jockeys’ premiership in 1986-87. He continued to ride until 1993.
“Australia’s miracle jockey: Johnston is nostalgia on horseback, galloping out of an older Australia… He is pre-eminently a battler with winning ways.” (Australian Women’s Weekly)