4:01 AM 18th September 2021
Raising The Game - The Next Leg In The Mark Johnston Racing Journey
Racing on the gallops
I was pleased earlier this month when our country’s ‘winning most’ racehorse trainer agreed to meet with me and a friend at his office at Kingsley Park in Middleham for an interview for this news site.
Mark Johnston broke the British racing trainer record, on Thursday 23rd August 2018, when he saddled (or more likely unsaddled) his 4,194th winner at York. That winning horse was the 20 to 1 shot Poet’s Society who was steered to victory by Frankie Dettori.
The Johnston Family with Poet's Society
On the day of our meeting Mark had runners at Doncaster but he still granted us some time. An indication that Johnston Racing is committed to educating people about the sport.
I was pleased because I wanted to tell you something about the Johnston family racing story and I also wanted to learn more about how this business works. But I was excited too, for the simple reason that I love horses - the short and the tall, the slow and the fast - and I knew I would be seeing lots of them.
I was grateful that my racing friend Allan, agreed to accompany me to Kingsley Park so that he could pull me up if I veered off-course. I am an outsider in this field, but hopefully improving. Next time I write a feature about horse racing I will have blinkers on.
We arrived in Middleham a few minutes early so we ordered coffee in the town-centre’s charming Richard III pub. The place is a shrine to the town’s racing heritage. You can pass the time with a book from its shelves on any subject - as long as it’s horse racing!
As the bar lady brought out our coffees - right on cue, the clatter of what sounded like a hundred horses’ hoofs pounding the road brought the tourists to their feet in excitement or reverence (probably both). They raised their smart phones in camera mode to capture the spectacle and thrill that only a phalanx of fabulous racehorses, born-to-run and agleam in the soft September sun, can bring. “These are the Johnston horses,” Allan asserted.
The Poole Water Walker
At Johnston Racing’s Kingsley Park stables, we were greeted warmly, and directed to Mark’s office without delay. This is racing after all. What followed was a fascinating insight into the Sport of Kings seen through the lens of a trainer who has had more winners than any other in Britain - ever.
‘Always Trying’ is Johnston Racing’s slogan. Perfect. It is both a declaration and a mantra. And it’s what everyone who has a part to play here lives by. Johnston Racing does exactly what it says on the horseboxes.
I soon came to understand that in horse racing the business in hand is always the next race. But this is a family business too and at this point in the yard’s maturity it is time to raise the bar a notch.
Famed within the racing community for his plain-talking, delivered in his distinctive Scottish brogue, Mark explained that horse racing in Britain must have more money flowing into it. It needs to attract that class of stakeholder who is ready to engage at a higher pitch.
This is where the Johnston Racing Kingsley Park Partnership’s newly launched Gold offering will allow Mark and his son Charlie to continue to find value, perhaps in finer pedigrees, without being unduly hemmed in on price.
Mark already has excellent form in finding value at the yearling sales. Perhaps it is because he was a successful vet before he became a trainer that he knows what to look for in young horses. He has been able to secure some astounding returns from some bargain-priced horses. Dark Vision is just one such horse, bought for £15,000, and brought along at Kingsley Park to go on to win at Goodwood. Dark Vision sold for £1.2m.
Another winner - Bowman
Whilst Mark acknowledges the role in opening up participation in the sport of entry-level shares, from as little as £50, such as those offered by Owners Group, he asserts there is no getting away from the fact that racing is an expensive business. The sport needs to attract and entertain wealthy participants who are eager and ready to have a share in some very special horses, to enjoy some spectacular racing and, of course, the chance to win some exciting prize money. This would also attract and reward the most serious owners and trainers.
To bring us up to speed - on our own time - on the Johnston Racing Journey , Mark handed us each a memory stick which holds the story - Johnston Racing - Then to Now. It’s a beautifully produced and fascinating piece of film which won an award at Cannes - another winner! It’s worth watching, even if you are not interested in racing, for its study in single-mindedness, grit, resilience, and keeping going when you know that you are on to something.
When I phoned the yard on the morning of Friday, 17th September 2021, the total number of UK winners from 1st January 2021 was 185, plus Subjectivist’s brilliant, clear win in Dubai.
That was then. Today’s focus for Mark Johnston and his team is always the next race.
For information on the range of share offerings in Johnston Racing’s The Kingsley Park Partnerships Contact the team on: 01969 622 237 or email: email@example.com