Glasgow-born Mark Johnston is a qualified veterinary surgeon and practised in that sphere for three years before purchasing his first training yard, Bank End Stables, near Louth, Lincolnshire in 1986. He took a public training licence in 1987 and saddled his first winner, Hinari Video, at Carlisle in July that year. The following year, Johnston bought his current yard, Kingsley Park, in Middleham, North Yorkshire, which he has subsequently developed into a major, state-of-the-art training complex, covering 300 acres and featuring some of the finest facilities in the country.
Johnson first saddled a hundred winners in a season in 1994 – the same year he won his first British Classic, the Two Thousand Guineas, with Mister Baileys – and went on to repeat that feat for 25 consecutive seasons. Indeed, in 2009, he became the first Flat trainer to saddle two hundred winners in a season and, once again, has gone on to repeat that feat in every season since, bar 2011 and 2016, in which he saddled 179 and 195 winners, respectively.Aside from Mister Baileys, Johnston also saddled another Classic winner, Attraction, in the One Thousand Guineas in 2004; three weeks later, Attraction also won the Irish One Thousand Guineas at the Curragh, making her the first filly in history to win both races.
On August 23, 2018, the victory of Poet’s Society in the Clipper Logistics Handicap at York brought up winner number 4,194, making Mark Johnston the most successful trainer, numerically, in the history of British horse racing. His career total beat the previous record set by Richard Hannon Snr., who was succeeded by his son, Richard Hannon Jnr., in 2003.
For all his success, Johnston has some contrary views on the relationship between horse racing, as a sport, and the betting industry. Despite betting being the raison d’être for horse racing – or, in other words, the reason its existence, in the first place – Johnston has argued that ITV, for example, “should get rid of all coverage of betting” from its terrestrial broadcasts of the sport.