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Mark Johnston's best horses - Five top stars of yesterday from the record-breaking Mark Johnston yard

Record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston with Poet's Society.

We look back at some of the big name horses who have helped Middleham trainer Mark Johnston become the winning-most trainer on the flat in Britain.

Just a few moments after 3pm on Thursday 23rd August 2018, Middleham-based racehorse trainer Mark Johnston became the most successful British Flat Trainer of all time when jockey Frankie Dettori crossed the line in first place on board Poet’s Society during the second day of York’s Ebor Festival meeting.

It was win number 4,194 for the Yorkshire-based Scot in a training career spanning more than 30 years since Hinari Video gave the trainer his first winner at Carlisle in 1987 when he based in Lincolnshire prior to moving to Middleham following his purchase of Kingsley House the following year.

From selling races to Group One winners, many talented horses have passed through the gates of the Johnston operation, and horses from the yard are known for for their bravery and tenacity from the front; a hallmark which sees Johnston doff the cap in the direction of former Champion Jumps trainer Martin Pipe.

We pick out five of Johnston’s top stars through the years who helped to put the Middleham maestro firmly on the map and who each made a big contribution to the handler’s impressive winning haul.


The Robellino colt was Johnston’s first Classic winner, and arguably the horse which propelled Johnston into the top echelon of trainers.

Winner of both the Vintage Stakes and Royal Lodge Stakes in his juvenile season, he won the 1994 2000 Guineas where he landed odds of 16/1 on what was his seasonal debut with a narrow defeat of Grand Lodge.

He would contest the Dante Stakes at York - finishing third - prior to tackling the Epsom Derby where an enterprising ride by jockey Jason Weaver might have paid dividends as he built up a big lead descending Tattenham Corner before being kicked clear in the straight.

His stamina however failed and having been overhauled in the final furlong, he finished fourth to Erhaab. Those exertions clearly took their toll on the Robellino colt who disappointed back at one mile in the Sussex Stakes, and he was subsequently retired.

While his stud career didn’t produce any top-class progeny, his overall contribution to Johnston’s legacy prior to his death in 2009 cannot be tarnished.

Mister Baileys (yellow) wins the 2000 Guineas and gives Mark Johnston a first British Classic success.


Unarguably one of the best stayers to have graced the Sport of Kings, the Ela-Mana-Mou gelding captured the Stayers’ Triple Crown in 1995 during a career which saw him win twelve Group races.

His owner, Ron Huggins, had paid little over 7000 Irish guineas for the chestnut who was notoriously lazy on the gallops; but he came alive at the races, and he won impressively on his debut where he posted a wide margin success over eight rivals to land odds of 14/1 in a course-record time for the distance.

One of two notable stayers for the owner, Huggins also had Double Eclipse with Johnston at the same time, and the pair produced a fantastic finish to the 1995 Goodwood Cup where they traded blows all the way to the line in a thrilling climax to a pulsating contest with Double Trigger just coming out on top.

Named the top European Stayer that year, he added two further Doncaster Cup and Goodwood Cup titles to his resume, as well as win a second Sagaro Stakes and Henry II Stakes. He was retired to stud following his 1998 Doncaster Cup success over Busy Flight.

While he has had little success with his progeny on the flat, he has sired some useful jumpers which include Russian Trigger, who won the 2009 Midlands Grand National.


As Double Trigger’s racing career came to an end, Peter Savill’s Royal Rebel would take up the mantle as the top stayer at the Johnston yard, and the Robellino gelding won back-to-back Ascot Gold Cups in 2001 and 2002.

He had won both the Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Stakes the previous season 2000, but his juvenile campaign saw him fail to win in three starts. He scored his first win at Newcastle on his second three-year old start, after which he finished runner-up in Ireland in the Ballysax Stakes.

He wouldn’t win again that season until his return to Ireland where he won the Listed Ballycullen Stakes having been stepped up in trip; but he bombed on his final outing in Sweden.

His emergence as a top-class - if enigmatic - stayer was confirmed the following year, with blinkers being a catalyst to a win in the Saval Beg Stakes prior to being campaigned mostly in Ireland prior to a winning crack at the Goodwood Cup, and then he went to York to claim the Lonsdale Cup.

Winless after, he struggled in part for the next season before a decision to remove the headgear he had worn saw a much improved effort and he struck in the Ascot Gold Cup, beating Persian Punch. But he again went off the boil and he struggled for form until posting a surprise return to form in the following season’s Ascot Gold Cup, beating Vinnie Roe.

He wasn’t seen the following season following injury, but later starts saw his career end on a succession of low notes, and he was retired in 2009 after failing to land a blow in that season’s Queen Alexandra Stakes.

Royal Rebel won two Ascot Gold Cups for Mark Johnston.


When quizzed about the best horse he has trained, Shamardal is the answer, and perhaps little wonder as the Giant’s Causeway colt was a top-class performer who was unbeaten in his first three starts as a juvenile which included both the Vintage Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes, and he was crowned 2004 European Champion two-year old

However, he didn’t stay with Johnston following his juvenile campaign and he was subsequently moved by owner Sheikh Mohammed into his Godolphin operation, where Saeed bin Suroor would continue the Giant’s Causeway colt’s education.

He would go on to win the French 2000 Guineas and French Derby in 2005, adding the St James’s Palace Stakes to his CV on his return to the UK on his next outing. However, he was retired after an injury sustained while preparing for the Coral Eclipse Stakes.

His stud career has been a big success, and he has sired the likes of Lope De Vega, Able Friend and Lumiere, who was trained by Johnston to win the 2015 Cheveley Park Stakes in impressive fashion.

Shamardal raced just three times - all wins - for Johnston before moving to Godolphin.


Johnston cites the remarkable filly as the horse he is most proud of, and the Efisio filly gave the Middleham trainer his second Classic win when storming to victory in the 2004 1000 Guineas.

However, she might never had made the racetrack had breeder Lord Roxburgh not decided to send the daughter of Efision to Johnston, and her malformed legs marked her out to be a very dubious prospect with very little hope of amounting to anything.

She proved everyone wrong in no uncertain fashion, winning all five of her starts as a juvenile which included successes in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the Cherry Hinton at Newmarket.

She was named both as the European Champion Two-Year Old Filly and the British Champion Two-Year Old Filly in 2003 for her exploits that year, but she wasn’t seen again following her Royal Ascot win until making her seasonal return in the 1000 Guineas where she stormed to success.

She added the Irish equivalent to her haul, as well as score further wins in the Coronation Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes that season despite losing her unbeaten record to Soviet Song in the Falmouth Stakes that year.

The following year saw her race just three times, but she still managed to collect further Group success with a win in the 2005 Matron Stakes which was to be her swansong race, and she bowed out with a record of ten wins and two placed from her 15 career starts.

Her stud career has produced some noteworthy names, including Elarqam who won the 2017 Somerville Tattersall Stakes, and 2013 Sapphire Stakes winner Fountain Of Youth.

Add in some more recent winning names, such as the Old Newton Cup winner Rainbow Rebel, the likes of 2018 German 1000 Guineas winner Nyaleti, 2017 Lowther Stakes winner Threading, 2018 Dante Stakes runner-up Mildenberger, and the ill-fated 2017 Dante winner Permian - who could have been the next big star for the yard - as well as stalwarts Cardsharp, Frankuus, Lumiere and numerous others, and it is clear that many top names have passed through the Johnston academy; and surely there will be others to come to further extend the amazing training career of the Scottish-born handler in future seasons.

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Mark Johnston's best horses - Five top stars of yesterday from the record-breaking Mark Johnston yard

We look back at some of the big name horses who have helped Middleham trainer Mark Johnston become the winning-most trainer on the flat in Britain.

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