MARK Johnston equalled the record for total number of winners trained in a calendar year in Britain when Bo Samraan triumphed at Pontefract’s season-ending meeting.
JOHNSTON INTERVIEW: History man Mark Johnston enjoys defying the odds
Ridden by veteran jockey Joe Fanning, the 6-1 chance got the better of Sod’s Law by a head in the KC Ethical And Sustainable British Caviar Handicap.
Johnston, 60, who last year became the most successful trainer in terms of career winners in Britain when saddling his 4,194th winner, was recording his 235th success of 2019.
The record had previously been shared between Richard Hannon senior, who set his best tally in 2013, and Malton’s Richard Fahey, who equalled the mark in 2015. Before this year, Johnston, who trains at Middleham, had a personal best of 226.
Johnston saddled an incredible 50 winners in July alone, having sent out 215 runners with a hugely impressive strike-rate of 23 per cent.
Fanning has been almost ever-present throughout the Johnston success story, while Franny Norton has also been a big part of the team in recent years.
“I was adamant we weren’t going to go chasing it running everything, so we haven’t had many runners or winners the last few weeks,” said Johnston.
“This lad had never been out of the frame, but he got an injury and that set him back. We weren’t confident he’d handle these conditions, but he got through it well. I usually give no instructions, but I said to Joe today to forget the ground, don’t try to hold on to him, just ride a normal race.”
Meanwhile the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien is responsible for 11 of the 12 juveniles remaining in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday – the final domestic Group One of the 2019 campaign.
O’Brien has won the Town Moor showpiece for the past two seasons, with Magna Grecia and Saxon Warrior – and both colts went on to win the 2000 Guineas the following spring.
This year his chief hope appears to be Mogul, a full-brother to the top class Japan and winner of two of his three outings to date, including a Group Two at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend.
Armory, a Group Two winner and placed in two Group Ones, arguably has the strongest form on offer among the O’Brien team.
The only non-Ballydoyle horse is the Andrew Balding-trained Kameko who is due to represent owners Qatar Racing and Oisin Murphy, the new champion jockey.
Qatar Racing – and Murphy – came close to winning the prize two years ago with Roaring Lion who went on to win four Group One races in a stellar 2018 before succumbing to colic earlier this year.
“It’s a horse race. You have to take them on and it doesn’t matter who trains them,” said Qatar’s racing manager David Redvers.
“It’s our horse running against a load of other horses, at the end of the day – it’s a bunch of horses running in a field.
“It would be very poignant for us if he can go one better than Roaring Lion and one thing for sure is he’ll be trying.”
Doncaster’s clerk of the course Roderick Duncan was at a loss to explain the Ballydoyle monopoly and insisted trainers could not blame the ground, which is currently good to soft. “One thing you can say is Ballydoyle win this with good horses, right back to Brian Boru. Hopefully this is a one-off, a very unique year.
Sue Smith’s staying steeplechaser Vintage Clouds, a first fence casualty in the Grand National, holds entries for Cheltenham and Kelso this Saturday.