Mark Johnston has been the most successful trainer at the Royal Ascot meeting in the past two decades, with his horses winning virtually every race run at England’s most prestigious flat racing meeting on at least one occasion. The Royal Ascot legend grew up in Aberfoyle near Glasgow in Scotland.
Mark Johnston’s father was an enthusiastic horse racing fan and horse owner who got his son interested in racing at an early age. Despite this early exposure to the sport of kings, Johnston did not begin his career in horse racing, instead opting to study Veterinary Science at Glasgow University.
After completing his degree Mark Johnston spent brief periods working with several trainers in Europe and the United States, including Tommy Craig, Charles Milbank and John Russell. In 1987 Johnston applied obtained his own license and set up his own stable.
Johnston’s first win came within months of acquiring his training license when Hinari Video won at Carlisle on the 7th of July 1987. Despite this early success hard times lay ahead for Johnston who struggled against the economic recession as he borrowed large sums of money to put together a world class training facility.
While Johnston struggled to put together a successful stable, he worked hard to make his mark as a trainer at the top races, and was forced to wait five years before one of his horses won a top race, when Marina Park won the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes.
Johnson had to wait another two years before one of his horses won a classic, when Mister Baileys won the 1994 2,000 Guineas. Another two years passed before Johnston won his first major Group race at the Royal Ascot meeting, when Bijou d’Inde won the 1996 St. James’ Palace Stakes.
Mark Johnston’s finest moment in the Royal Ascot meeting came in 2001 when Royal Rebel handed the Royal Ascot legend his first Ascot Gold Cup. A year later Royal Rebel did it again, scoring a second consecutive win at the 2002 Royal Ascot Gold Cup and securing his trainer a seat at flat racing’s top table.
The victories in the Gold Cup and St. James’ Palace Stakes aside, the Royal Ascot legend has built up the most successful record of any trainer at the Royal Ascot meeting with nearly one in five races going to one of his horses.