Mark Johnston: Five of the record-breaking trainer's finest horses

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Thu 23 Aug 2018

Mark Johnston has trained many superb horses on his way to becoming Britain's winning-most trainer. Here are five of his best.


The colt who put Johnston on the map with his victory in the 2,000 Guineas of 1994 at Newmarket. It was the first Classic winner to come from Middleham since 1945.

Making his seasonal reappearance, and sent off at 16-1, Mister Baileys quickened to the front three out at Newmarket and then kept on gamely under Jason Weaver to win by a short head from Grand Lodge.

Mister Baileys subsequently finished third in the Dante at York, when carrying a penalty, and proved a thrilling sight in the Derby - being about six lengths clear sweeping around Tattenham Corner before getting tired late on and finishing fourth behind Erhaab. On his final start before being retired to stud he finished fifth in the Sussex Stakes.


Described by Johnston as the best horse he has trained. A powerful son of Giant’s Causeway, owned by Sheikh Mohammed, he won on his two-year-old debut in a six-furlong maiden by eight lengths at Ayr before following up with comfort in the Group Two Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.

Shamardal signed off for the season with an emphatic success in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes, at Newmarket, and was named Europe’s champion two-year-old.

Shortly afterwards, as was often the case with Sheikh Mohammed horses at the time, he was moved to the Godolphin operation and was trained by Saeed Bin Suroor. He went on to win the French equivalents of the 2,000 Guineas and Derby in 2005 before returning to Britain to take the St James’s Palace Stakes.


The filly had such a poor conformation that her breeder, the Duke of Roxburghe, did not even consider sending her to the sales. Instead, he sent her straight to Johnston to see if he could do anything with her and the results were remarkable.

She won all five of her starts as a two-year-old, including the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot and, despite an ungainly action, would go on to win five Group One prizes - the 1,000 Guineas, Irish 1,000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes, Sun Chariot Stakes and Matron Stakes.

After securing his 4,000th winner, late in 2017, Johnston reflected: “She’s the one I’m most proud of. Many people would have given up on her. She didn’t have the best of conformation, fractured a pedal bone as a two-year-old and strained a suspensory at four.

“We managed to keep her racing and she proved it isn’t about statistics and records but about the horses.”


 Mark Johnston and Double Trigger (FocusonRacing)
Mark Johnston and Double Trigger (FocusonRacing)

Owner Ron Huggins bought him in Ireland for just 7,200 Irish guineas and the old saying of “you get what you pay for” seemed true as the gangly chestnut with distinctive blaze struggled to beat his own shadow on the gallops.

However, he came alive on the racecourse and went on to become an outstanding and cherished stayer - a dozen of his 14 career victories being achieved at Group level.

He won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 1995 and would be runner-up in it twice more. He won the Goodwood Cup a record three times, on one occasion beating his younger brother, Double Eclipse, also trained by Johnston, by a neck.

Other highlights included three wins in the Doncaster Cup, two wins in the Henry II Stakes plus a Sagaro Stakes.


In terms of ability, Johnston has trained many better than the gelding but none were so prolific when it came to helping add to his tally of winners in Britain.

In total, the versatile Star Rage contributed 22 victories between 1994 and 2001, with two of those wins coming over jumps and including the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in 1997 (Johnston has had five winners in the sphere of National Hunt).

Star Rage gained his first win for Johnston as a four-year-old, off a mark of 39 at Musselburgh in May 1994, having been mainly trained by Mick Easterby before that time.

He achieved a rating of 86 at his peak, his final win coming as an 11-year-old at Southwell.

Branston Abby was another tremendously prolific winner for Johnston, chalking up 22 victories for him. Six of those triumphs were gained on foreign soil.

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