Beginning a new chapter
By Mark Johnston – From the Kingsley Klarion’s Straight Talking, January 2023
When news of Charlie taking over our licence to train eventually trickled out – it did just ‘trickle’ out – I found it quite bizarre. So different from the days when the racecourse press rooms were populated with racing correspondents from all the big daily papers. John Garnsey from the Daily Express would have been on the phone before we’d even finalised our decision. I could never figure out where he got his information. It was quite uncanny and sometimes unsettling. Anyway, when the news eventually trickled out, there were some trying to hail it as my retirement and/or the end of an era.
I don’t see it as either. For a start, I haven’t retired. I’m still getting up in the dark and I’m still up after midnight finishing off my Kingsley Klarion article or exchanging emails with Ralph Beckett and William Haggas on the state of British racing. Nothing has changed in that regard. There is still plenty work here for us all.
I see it more as a new chapter in the life of Johnston Racing and there have been many of those. We always like to be changing, moving forward, and refusing to stand still. Not quite re-inventing ourselves but avoiding stagnation at all costs.
Of course, the change from a licence in my name to a joint licence was made only a year ago, and that was a new chapter in itself, but it was a bit like only half-turning the page and trying to look forward and back at the same time. I felt at times, when we had big winners or passed milestones, that Charlie didn’t get credit for his achievements and the huge part he has played in recent years.
I could not help but note that, after the death of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum in 2021, when his Shadwell Estates company announced major cutbacks, it was myself and Sir Michael Stoute, two of his older trainers, who were cut out completely. And this year, under the management of his daughter, Sheika Hissa, they have announced the addition of four ‘young’ trainers. I have to face the fact that new, younger owners, will want a trainer closer to their own age and, under the joint licence, they may not have seen Charlie in that light.
I hope that the owners who were with us under my licence will know that I am still going to be around and that they will be receiving the same service and standard of care as always. In addition, they all know Charlie and know that he has been involved from an early age. And maybe some new owners will see this new chapter as confirmation that we are still a vibrant business at the forefront of positive change in racing.