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Johnston marches on to 4,000 with all-time British record firmly in his sights

Mark Johnston: the appropriately named Dominating provided the key victory at Pontefract
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Mark Johnston marched ever closer to becoming the most numerically successful trainer in British racing history when Dominating gave him his 4,000th domestic Flat win at Pontefract on Monday.

He is only the third trainer to have sent out 4,000 winners in Britain, with his overall tally boosted to 4,005 by five jumps victories.

Johnston stands number three in the all-time list of British winning trainers behind Richard Hannon snr, who retired with a tally of 4,193 (4,145 on the Flat), and Martin Pipe, who was ten adrift on 4,183.

Dominating was Johnston's 202nd winner of the year and was also a notable landmark for rider PJ McDonald, who was hitting notching a century for the season for the first time.

A graduate of Glasgow University, Johnston, who is qualified as a vet, took out his first licence at premises near Louth, in Lincolnshire, in 1987, when he scored for the first time with Hinari Video at Carlisle.

Johnston with wife Deirdre, who has played an integral part in his success

Speaking from home, he said: "We started off right at the bottom with three and a half paying horses but with the ambition to train lots of winners, including Classic winners. We were so small it's hard to imagine what we've achieved. In our first year we had one winner and in the second only five."

It has been a team effort though, and an integral part of the team has been his wife Deirdre, who was at Pontefract and said: "In those early days we were so short of money I worked as a teacher in Grimsby.

"I used to ride out, go to work and then come back and do evening stables. Mark used to do a bit of vetting as well.

"Then after two years we moved to Middleham and we had 15 horses, so I was able to give up work. It's been an amazing journey, and here's to the next 4,000!"

Three of the best

Asked for his career highlights, Mark Johnston said: "Top of the list would be Shamardal. I know I only had him as a two-year-old but he was the best horse I've ever trained.

"The one I'm most proud of is Attraction. I think many people would have given up on her.

"It's well known she did not have the best of conformation but also she fractured a pedal bone as a two-year-old and then strained a suspensory as a four-year-old. We managed to keep her racing and she proved it isn't about statistics and records but about the horses.

Attraction, the apple of Johnston's eye: 'She proved it isn't about statistics and records but about the horses'

"The other highlight would be Mister Baileys winning the 2,000 Guineas in 1994. We were already established but after he won I was able buy another yard, so from having a 65-horse stable we then had more than a hundred horses. It was a big step but it moved us up to another level."

As Johnston is the only one of the top three all-time winning trainers still holding a licence it is a virtual certainty that sometime in 2018 he will become the winning-most trainer of all time, Flat or jumps.

McDonald's fine year

The current season has also been a stellar one for PJ McDonald, who has ridden many of the Johnston winners and within the space of less than a fortnight has enjoyed his first Group 1 success and reached a century for the first time. 

He said: "It's been a great year and I'm grateful to all the horses I've ridden and all the trainers who have had the confidence in me to let me ride them. The difficulty will be repeating it next season."

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We started off right at the bottom with three and a half paying horses, but with the ambition to train lots winners including Classic winners
E.W. Terms