Mark Johnston blasts city racing as a '˜sham' gimmick

top fLAT trainer Mark Johnston has urged racing's authorities to cut the 'sham' marketing gimmicks from 'Butlins variety shows'.

Middleham-based flat trainer, Mark Johnston Mark Johnston. Picture: Simon Hulme

His warning comes after two companies reportedly expressed an interest in holding races on a makeshift course erected in central London – The Mall has been suggested as possible venue.

And his criticism in the latest edition of Kingsley Klarion, his Middleham stable’s in-house magazine, preceded plans by racecourse owner ARC launch a new ‘Silks Series’ for female jockeys.

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This series, worth £100,000 in total, will see eight races take place at Flat courses around the country before a grand finale on Ladies Day at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting this September.

SPORTING DOUBTS: The Tour de Frances Grand Depart in 2014 was a success, but Mark Johnston has doubts over new horse racing proposals. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Johnston, who has trained in excess of 100 winners every year since 1994 and won Classics courtesy of Attraction and Mister Baileys, bases his comments on the successful staging of the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in 2014.

Indeed, the peloton raced past the stables of the keen cycling enthusiast towards the end of the first stage.

“I have, until now, kept uncharacteristically quiet on the subject as I didn’t want to get egg on my face if they actually managed to pull off what seems like such a ridiculous idea,” explained Johnston.

“I didn’t want to end up like those who said that Gary Verity was a nutcase when he suggested that he could bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire.

SPORTING DOUBTS: The Tour de Frances Grand Depart in 2014 was a success, but Mark Johnston has doubts over new horse racing proposals. Picture: Simon Hulme.

“But Gary Verity and his team put on a two-day stage more than worthy of cycling’s greatest road race. That was cycling at its best, with Yorkshire’s scenery thrown in and showcased to the world. In comparison, the proposal for city racing is a sham.”

Johnston adds: “British horse racing is still, by the skin of its teeth, regarded as the best in the world and we should do everything to retain that position rather than funding a marketing department that seems to pull its ideas from Butlins variety shows.

“We have got enough races for grey horses, meetings restricted to female riders and competitions between jockeys with scant regard for the fundamental principles of professional horse racing.”

The trainer’s comments come ahead of next week’s National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham where he could have a rare runner courtesy of Golden Jeffrey in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

This is racing’s one meeting – Flat or jumps – which requires no input from Great British Racing, the marketing arm of the British Horseracing Authority, because of its prestige and popularity on the sporting calendar.

Meanwhile, the leading protagonists have all stood their ground for next Tuesday’s opening day which features the Champion Hurdle and Arkle Trophy. It means the Willie Mullins-trained Limini will miss hurdling’s premier race in favour of the Mares Hurdle on the same day.

Gillian Boanas enjoyed her first success as a trainer when Redkalani won at Catterick.

She recently took over the reins of Keith Reveley’s saltburn stables where she had been the long-standing head lass.

She got off the mark from her ninth runner as Redkalani landed a game success under Emma Todd.

Boanas said: “We’ve been knocking on the door and it’s nice to get that winner in now.”

Nomoreblackjack’s chase win continued the fine recent form of trainer Sue Smith and jockey Danny Cook.