08/16/2006 12:00AM

River Downs track report


Surrounded by friends and family in a surprise gathering between races Sunday at River Downs, jockey Jeff Johnston was given a heartfelt good-bye on his last day as a professional jockey. Johnston, 36, retired at the end of Sunday's program to become the treasurer and Midwest regional manager of the Jockeys' Guild.

A native of Iowa, Johnston began his career riding Quarter Horses at Queen City Downs in Hastings, Neb., and rode his first Thoroughbred winner at Prairie Meadows during the track's inaugural meet in 1989. Johnston ended his career with 1,406 Thoroughbred wins and mount earnings of more than $15 million.

While pursuing his riding career, Johnston earned a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Louisville in 1992. It was there that he met his wife, JoLynn, a fellow student in the school's Equine Industry Program. She later became director of marketing at River Downs.

Johnston has been riding primarily on the Ohio and Kentucky circuits for more than a decade, and he enjoyed much of his success at River Downs, where he won such major stakes as the Bassinet and the Governor's Buckeye Cup. Johnston has also been a high-profile member of the Jockeys' Guild over the past few years.

"My main goal at the guild is to make sure all jockeys know how important the guild is," Johnston said. "My other goal is to convince the racetracks and trainers how important the guild is."

Johnston said trading his silks in for a suit is something he is content with. "I'll miss riding the big races and the good horses, but not the day-to-day grind," he said.

* Favorites captured both of last weekend's allowance preps for the meet's biggest races, the Cradle Stakes and Bassinet Stakes. In the $29,200 Cradle prep, the Ken McPeek-trained Loose Leaf drew off to win by 5 1/2 lengths. The $25,000 Bassinet prep went to Devil House, a Chester House filly trained by Terry Gestes. Devil House won by 8 1/4 lengths.