Horse racing is one of Britain’s most popular pastimes. Betting on horses is just as popular, with the industry turning over a whopping £4.32 million from April 2017 to March 2018. During the historic horse events such as the Grand National, Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival, we see hundreds of horses compete for incredible amounts prize money.
We see the jockeys and horses perform, but what we don’t see is all the hard work that goes into training the horses. Although the trainers of every horse are mentioned at events, they don’t receive much praise for their achievements. One man is far more deserving of this spotlight than any other trainer, and his name is Mark Johnston.
Born in Glasgow, Johnston received his Veterinary degree from Glasgow University after taking an interest in his father’s ownership of horses. Johnston went on to work in a veterinary practice for three years before purchasing his first training yard in Lincolnshire. He was granted a trainer’s license in 1987 and sent out his first winner that summer, Hinari Video.
It was the beginning of what is a successful career. Johnston moved to Middleham in 1988 and has since bought a further two yards at Kingsley House. Building on his initial success, Johnston went on to achieve his first century of winners by 1994, but he didn’t stop there.
Decorated over and over again
As you can imagine, Johnston’s accolades are impressive. He has major wins across the globe, including Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. Amongst his major wins are the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, as well as three wins at Ascot’s Gold Cup.
After an incredible 32 years of being a horse trainer, Johnston has saddled over 4,000 horses. He broke the record for the most successful racehorse trainer in Britain during the summer of 2018 – beating Richard Hannon’s record of 4,193 winners. Hannon held his license for a little over 43 years and retired in 2013. By those estimates, Johnston will have smashed the previous record and set a near-impossible challenge as he took only 32 years to break the previous record.
To this day you will find Johnston at his three-yard Middleham empire, married to Deidre with two sons, Charlie (his assistant trainer) and Angus. But he is still up to his winnings ways. As recent as July this year, Johnston broke another record, this time by sending out an astonishing 50 winners in a single month.
Although the Scotsman already held the record with 47 winners, he managed to top it, setting the bar that little bit higher for any potential competition. Johnston is well-known within the sport for many impressive records, one of them being that he has trained more than 100 British winners for 26 consecutive seasons.
Johnston Racing now has a large team behind the scenes, from vets and yard managers, to drivers and groom riders. Johnston Racing employs every potential role in the process of looking after these horses, including the embroiderer of their team kit.
Johnston has built himself not only an incredible career but an astonishing legacy that will live on long after he retires. That being said, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, producing more winners each season – as his motto says, he’s “Always Trying”.