Champion jockey Chris Johnson is adamant he wasn't drunk when stood down from riding for failing a breathalyser test at Riccarton on Saturday.

But the 56-year-old on the verge of setting a new record for domestic wins by a New Zealand jockey says he won't argue with the results of the test that will almost certainly see him suspended for at least a month.

Johnson was breathalysed after finishing third in the first race at Riccarton and says his level was 145mcg, falling to 130mcg for his next test 10 minutes later.

While the Racing Integrity Unit steward in charge of the meeting John Oatham would not confirm Johnson's exact readings, he said Johnson's claims were close enough to accurate.


While a driver of a motor vehicle over 20 is considered under the limit up until 250mcg, for jockeys riding in races or trials that limit is 100mcg so the stewards had no option but to stand Johnson down.

Johnson isn't arguing with their actions or the readings but the one-time flawed genius man of New Zealand racing says he had not been drinking heavily the night before and definitely hadn't drunk on the day of the races.

"I had a few on Friday night, a couple of beers and some bourbons but nothing serious. I was in bed by 11pm," says Johnson, who has battled alcoholism in the past.

"The problem was I didn't eat. I was wasting (trying to quickly drop weight) so I could ride a couple of horses at 54kgs so I didn't have dinner on Friday night and no breakfast on Saturday.

"And I spent an hour in the spa to get some weight off in the morning so when I got to the races I must have had the alcohol still in my system but I definitely wasn't drunk or impaired.

"I actually drove the truck to the races because I was fine."

Johnson, who tested positive for cannabis at a trial meeting in 2016 and was suspended for eight weeks, has gone off the rails when drinking in the past, nearly ruining the career of one of the most naturally gifted riders in New Zealand history.

He never hides from that reality and has sought help for his struggles and just a year after his 2016 drug suspension he fought back to win the national jockey's premiership.


He now needs just 11 more wins to pass David Walsh for the most wins ever by a New Zealand jockey, with Walsh's record standing at 2451 victories.

Having battled the demon before Johnson says he has put his wild nights behind him.

"I know what it is like to go on those benders and get messed up and I don't do that anymore. Those days are gone.

"I still enjoy a drink but I don't hit it hard and this definitely wasn't a case of that.

"I am not saying the machine (breathalyser) was wrong so I will probably plead guilty and get a suspension.

"But I am not going anywhere. I am going to keep riding and break that record."


Respected trainer John Parsons, who Johnson works for part-time and rides a lot for in races, says he travelled to the races with Johnson and saw no indications he was intoxicated.

"He was fine to look at and speak to and had it been a roadside driving alcohol test it wouldn't even be a factor," said Parsons.

"Chris spends a lot of time with us and he seems to be fine, his drinking hasn't been a problem," says Parsons, a renowned straight shooter.

Senior steward Oatham says the unusual decision to test Johnson after race one, rather than at the start of the day, was at the steward's discretion and not because of a complaint from any other industry participant.

Oatham said Johnson was cooperative and while he wouldn't be drawn on a likely penalty. Suspensions of a month or six weeks have tended to be the norm for failed alcohol tests at races and trials.