Mark Johnston: Six of his best horses
Mark Johnston – the trainer of more winners in the history of British racing than anyone else – recently announced he is relinquishing his role as joint-trainer with his son, Charlie.
Although he is keen to stress he is not retiring, the change marks the end of an era for the 63-year-old, who is responsible for over 5,000 victories.
With so many career winners, there are obviously plenty of horses Mark Johnston can look back on with fond memories. While the likes of Branston Abby, Yavana’s Pace and Fruits Of Love all deserve honourable mentions, here are six of the top horses from the team that was ‘Always Trying’:
This filly defied her famously unconventional action to bag five Group One wins, including both the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2004. Johnston showed patience in spades to nurse her back from injury during her four-year-old season, with that skill paying dividends as she signed off her career with Matron Stakes glory at Leopardstown.
This horse has become of one of the key sires of recent times and it was Johnston who guided his unbeaten three-start juvenile career, culminating in a comprehensive Dewhurst Stakes win in 2004. Shamardal was subsequently transferred to Saeed bin Suroor, for whom he won three Group Ones before injury ended his career.
This flashy chestnut with a big white blaze built up quite a following by virtue of his eye-catching looks and bold running style. He completed the stayers’ grand slam in 1995, winning the Ascot, Goodwood and Doncaster Cups. He has a statue in his honour on Town Moor after winning the Doncaster Cup three times, while he also completed a hat-trick at Goodwood.
— Doncaster Racecourse (@DoncasterRaces) September 15, 2017
Involved in one of the most famous Ascot Gold Cup battles ever, Royal Rebel showed guts aplenty to edge out Persian Punch by a head after the pair slugged it out in the final furlong in 2001. Not the most straightforward of animals, Johnston got him back to top form for the Royal meeting the following year, when he rallied after looking beaten to see off Vinnie Roe by a neck.
A landmark horse in Johnston’s career, Mister Baileys was a dual Group-race winner as a juvenile, but was allowed to go off a 16/1 shot when he won the 2000 Guineas by the shortest of short heads in 1994. Connections opted to take the brave route and head to Epsom for the Derby, but having sat clear with half a mile to run, he ran out of gas and faded into fourth.
One of our favourites 😃
Mister Baileys got the better of Grand Lodge in a fantastic duel to the 1994 2000 Guineas.
— Newmarket Racecourse (@NewmarketRace) April 28, 2020
This son of Teofilo was Johnston’s most recent and ultimately final staying star – winning the Prix Royal-Oak, the Dubai Gold Cup and 2021 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in the space of nine months. He looked like he might become the new dominant force in the division after the most recent of those triumphs, but a subsequent injury means he has not been seen since.