On Thursday afternoon, Mark Johnston trained his 4,194th British winner to set a new record, surpassing the 4,193 that Richard Hannon Snr closed out his storied career with. Poet’s Society was the horse who got Johnston over the winning line with Frankie Dettori in the saddle, landing the 3.00pm at York. Given a strong front-running ride, he showed the typical tenacity of the Johnston team as the pair fought off his rivals as they came looking to swamp him heading into the final quarter of a mile. History was to be broken, however, as the 20/1 shot battled on to land an incredible success. Our York tips for the Ebor meeting are on the site.
The fifty-eight year old sent out his first winner back on the 1st July 1987 at Carlisle with Hinari Video. The numbers have risen sharply since, a remarkable twenty-five years in a row with at least a hundred winners, including a pair of Classic wins with Mister Baileys in the 1994 & 2000 Guineas and Attraction in the 1000 Guineas a decade later. A qualified vet, it’s a family affair at the 270-acre Kingsley Park estate in the famous training centre of Middleham, with wife Deirdre and son Charlie both hands on with the operation.
No stranger to controversy – notably of late with his opinions on the handicapping system in the U.K. as only beneficial to the betting industry – Johnston divides opinion over his methods. A firm believer in racing horses rather than wrapping them up in cotton wool, his charges are there to compete. His charges are always immaculately presented at the races, as are his staff, easily noticeable in their tartan waistcoats. A happy horse is a horse who will do their best, the gutsy head down style that is associated with Johnston’s yard is clearly indicative of horses who are given the absolute best of care and love the job that they do.
While some may claim that they are sent to the well once too often, the likes of Yavana’s Pace who won a German Group 1 at the age of ten suggest that Johnston’s methods will produce longevity. Whatever one’s personal opinion of that particular ethos, he has been at the top of the game for a long time, with no sign that he is going to slow down any time soon.
Aside from the pair of Classic wins, Johnston won the Ascot Gold Cup on three occasions, twice with Royal Rebel and also with Double Trigger. The latter was a huge favourite of the public in the 90’s, a flashy chestnut with a distinctive white blaze, he would run his opposition into the ground from the front. With three Doncaster and three Goodwood Cup’s to add to his legacy along with a pair of Sagaro Stakes and Henry II’s, he was a sensational flagbearer for the yard.
Shamardal was not only a top class performer for Johnston but has gone on to be a huge success at stud where he has thrown the likes of Able Friend, Blue Point and Mukhadram. A perfect 6/6 on turf (his only defeat came in the UAE Derby on dirt) he was a prime example of the superb placing of Johnston (and his willingness to travel for the right target) that has allowed him to produce so many winners. A French Guineas and French Derby to his credit, the horse ended his career in the St James’s Palace Stakes when Royal Ascot moved to York.
Fourteen months away from his sixtieth birthday, it seems likely that Johnston will extend his lead as the winningmost trainer in Britain for some time. With son Charlie ready to take the reins further down the line, the future looks bright for the yard for decades to come. Charlie Johnston can look forward to a rivalry with Richard Hannon Jnr who has almost 900 winners himself already since taking out a license. These two families can continue to dominate the winner’s enclosure, head to head for victories. We’re confident that Mark Johnston will have plenty more winners on TV, and we’re looking forward to including them in our ITV racing tips!
myracing would like to extend their congratulations to all of the team at Kingsley Park for this incredible achievement. 5,000 winners look well within the Scotsman’s grasp, it would take a brave punter to bet against that happening!