James Willoughby has written many fine things along the road, but nothing better than the piece I have just read in the June edition of the Kingsley Klarion on riding tactics and timings.

It’s utterly exasperating how racecourses and press alike wilfully ignore sectional times in their discussion of tactics, and if you give them half a chance they will ignore the final time as well. Three track records were broken on the first day at Royal Ascot and yet racegoers were never informed on the public address, and while we got many things right on ITV during the meeting, we got this one wrong.

For, with no planned record check, Jason Weaver misheard the time for the St James’s Palace Stakes (which was actually a course best) as two seconds slower than the record, and so he went into a long riff about how Ryan Moore had Churchill badly positioned behind a slow pace. Jason was the victim of a flawed system, but so too were the viewers and racing in general.

In our defence, ITV are only reflecting a wider malaise. We did at least start to display the winning times on subsequent days, and we will be looking to improve on this and to see what progress can be made on this my favourite hobby horse, the lack of sectional times. I defy anyone to say that it would not be interesting to know which horse ran the fastest individual furlong and fastest closing furlong on each day, and indeed over the whole week. Or to claim that straightforward comparisons of the time taken to run the same distance are not illuminating. Yet despite all this, the great bulk of professional racing folk continue to consider times not worth bothering about.

For example, the Diamond Jubilee win by The Tin Man on the Saturday of Royal Ascot meant that one of the most anticipated races of the summer will be the July Cup at Newmarket on July 15, where The Tin Man’s principal rival could be Caravaggio, who at Ascot on the Friday had been a brilliant winner over the same  6 furlongs in the Commonwealth Cup. The fact that (under admittedly slightly more favourable conditions) The Tin Man took 1m 12.02 seconds to run the distance while Caravaggio clocked only 1m 13.49  just 24 hours earlier is not a conclusive argument as to the merits of the two horses, but it beggars belief that a sport which at heart is no more and no less than equine athletics does not even discuss it.

I have talked about all this for years with Brendan Foster, one of Britain’s greatest athletes on the track, where lap times are crucial. He thinks I am joking! Even now I bet most racing people don’t know that the finish of most races is an optical illusion, with the last furlong slower, rather than faster, than those before it. How bad must my broadcasting career have been that in 45 years I haven’t even been able to even get that across?

Thanks again to James for such a lucid exposition and to Mark for continuing to fly the flag of logic in an illogical world.

Brough Scott

Surrey - 27th June 2017

I really enjoyed the racing at Royal Ascot and thought ITV’s coverage all week was excellent, but the highlight for me came right at the end with Oriental Fox winning the last race of the meeting.

I like a bet, but didn’t have a penny on him, yet I was shouting at him to get back at Thomas Hobson. One of the reasons that National Hunt racing is so popular is that horses are around for years, and people get to know them and get attached to them.

I feel the same about stayers on the Flat. I’m delighted another old boy did that genre proud at Royal Ascot. Give me guts and staying power over precocious speed any day of the week! If I had the money, that’s the type of horse I’d like to breed.

Well done to Mark and all his team for turning out a 9-year-old to win a race at the best Flat meeting in the world for a second time.  It was a really fantastic achievement.

I was at Middleham Open Day a few years ago and enjoyed my time in such an incredible setting. I always look out for the trainers in the area, and love to see them doing well.  I hope that Mark and the team enjoyed the end of Royal Ascot with a few well-deserved drinks!

Ian Conway

Carrickfergus - 27th June 2017

I just wanted to say how pleased I was for the whole MJR team at Royal Ascot, with Permian and the amazing Oriental Fox both winning there. And what a nice run in second for the filly Nyaleti!

I have been a follower of Mark Johnston’s stables since the early 1990s. Having attended a few Middleham Open Days, I have met some of the equine stars, including the great Double Trigger. I am not that interested in betting on horses, and generally only have a bet when I manage to attend a race meeting.

My interest is in the horses themselves and the breeding of these beautiful creatures. When ITV began, they had graphics for all winners showing the breeder and the sire and dam. Great, I thought; but since then it has been very inconsistent with that information, and that is disappointing.

Here’s hoping the MJR team have a successful Glorious Goodwood.

Kathryn Bowmer- Hall

Bury, Lancashire - 27th June 2017
Thanks, Neil

I recently enjoyed a day trip to Middleham with the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, during which one of the events was a talk by vet Neil Mechie from Johnston Racing.  I have never had any interest in, or knowledge of, horse racing, but the talk by your vet Neil Mechie was an eye-opener.

In the short time available he presented the veterinary side of racehorses well, and explained something of how training is organised. I was highly impressed and, to judge from conversations on the way back to York, others were equally fascinated. The number of questions during and after his talk was unusually high, showing the interest generated.

I don’t think I’ll be in the stands at York anytime soon, but I now feel rather better informed about what goes on in your stables and the world of racing generally. Please could you pass on my thanks to Neil. I have rarely heard a more informative and interesting talk.

Roger Backhouse

Upper Poppleton, York - 27th June 2017

The article on Galapiat in the May edition of the Klarion, and his success in the Great Metropolitan Handicap at Epsom, plus the reference to the now shortened version of the race from earlier times, brought to mind a running back in 1950, when the race was still run over its original trip of two and a quarter miles.

In 1948, Now Or Never, trained at Epsom by Vic Smyth, had won the race. Two years later, a French-trained horse named Blue Fox was brought over a few days prior to the race, and stabled at Epsom. While there, he was galloped with the 1948 winner on Six-Mile Hill, and beat him.

Come the day of the race, most of Vic’s lads knew which one their money ought to be on, and acted accordingly. By Tattenham Corner, Blue Fox, ridden by Frenchman Paul Blanc, had the race sewn up, and won at a nice price.

I do not know for sure, but I would wager the horse was brought over from France because the distance of the race was of great attraction to the connections, and played to their horse’s strength. What odds now, of a horse from France ever returning for another crack at the race, it having been reduced from its original distance by some six furlongs? Long odds-against, I suggest.

Sadly, it is not only Epsom where a once historic race has lost its kudos by virtue of a reduction in distance; the Brown Jack Stakes at Ascot is yet another example of a once-unique race losing its cachet by having a shortened trip. Were he to get to hear about it, the great horse from which the race takes its name would wonder what on earth is going on.

Antony Verdie

28th May 2017

I really enjoyed the pieces in the Klarion on prize-money and would like to address three of the key questions raised.
1. Has prize-money been loaded into the better races? The simple answer is yes. According to the BHA the £18m that went to Pattern races in 2006 accounted for 27.6% of that year’s total prize-money but the £30m that went to Pattern races in 2015 accounted for 33.5%.
2. What proportion of the media rights money the racecourses receive filters back into prize-money? I was unable to obtain data for ARC-owned courses but the Racecourse Media Group in 2016 generated £85.5m in media rights payments for their 34 racecourses ( includes all the major flat tracks) from which £33.9m ( 39.6%) went back into prize-money across flat and National Hunt racing. It would be illuminating to know what happens to the other £51.6m.
3. How far does an extra £10m go in improving prize-money? Well, it would have to increase by a minimum £25m to get us back to 1994 levels. Let me explain.
Total prize-money data for 1994 is seemingly not available. In 2015 there were 6,257 flat races competing for £89.7m, meaning an average £14,341 per race. If we assume the average race in 1994 was worth just 10% more than in 2015 ( Mark and John Scanlon’s examples suggest its closer to 20%) then the average race would be worth £15,775….3,901 flat races at an average of £15,775 suggest total prize-money of £61.5m in 1994. Given a pound in 1994 is now worth £1.87, the £61.5m in 1994 is the equivalent of £115m today. And £115m less £89.7m is £25.3m. If races in 1994 really were worth 20% more, then the prize-money gap with 1994 becomes £35.7m . In short the extra £10m from the new betting rights is welcome but doesn’t get close to where we were in 1994 . . . and remember prize-money in 1994 was considered inadequate!
Finally, we should not overlook the fact that 19% of all prize-money on the flat in 2016 was provided by the owners themselves.

Ged Shields

Kingsley Park 6 partnership, Barnsley - 27th May 2017

I would just like to thank Mark for entertaining me at Catterick on May 11 when I, as a mere member of the throng, approached you and congratulated you on Izzy Bizu’s great debut performance from a wide draw.

I find it marvellous that people like you at the top of their sport can be so amenable and open to greetings, let alone even be found at venues such as Catterick on days when the bright lights of tracks such as Chester beckon. So I applaud you for that.

Thank you once again, and the very best of luck wth Izzy Bizu in the Marygate if she goes there, where hopefully she can emulate Delizia for you.

Ideally I would love to have another chat with you as there are so many facets of the training game I would love to know the answers to. Being what can probably be best described as a “townie” I did not grow up around horses, although I always wish I had, so my involvement with – and therefore understanding of – horses has been what you might kindly call at a minimum.

Keep up the sound work. Good luck for the rest of the season.

John Richardson

15th May 2017

It appears we are in the season for retaliation. Cruise missiles apart, Richard Hannon sent some of his own in the direction of the ARC management office at Windsor Racecourse with a message in the warhead that he is going to minimise his entries for the Berkshire track due to the meagre prize-money on offer there.
He added: “I’m getting very bored of going there and seeing the place full, the bars are heaving, they’re charging £85 for a bottle of champagne and we’re running nice horses for just £2,000”.

Viewing these comments in the Racing Post, I thought I was reading a back edition of ‘Straight Talking’! If it’s uneconomical to send horses from East Everleigh, a short distance down the M4 from Windsor, what chance have the owners from North Yorkshire and Scotland got?

One can only hope that the newly constituted Racing Authority which will soon be taking over from the Levy Board, will address the urgent requirement for additional prize-money at the lower level. As Mr Nicholas Cooper, president of the ROA says: “The Racing Authority must be flexible and creative in deciding how to spend this central funding for the greater good of the sport”.
On a rather more parochial, but nonetheless vital matter, I have no doubt horsemen will be watching the TV screens on the evening of May 4th not necessarily watching  the horse racing at Musselburgh but studying the exit polls for the local council elections for the ward of Musselburgh East and Carberry.

The election is significant because local councillor John Caldwell is chairperson of  the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee which is now in a state of hostility between the councillors on one hand and the racecourse management on the other. Musselburgh Racecourse is unique in that it sits on “common land”, with the buildings owned by the council which are then rented out to the racecourse management. A dispute involving £100,000 in legal fees appears to be irreconcilable, so much so that the BHA has issued only a temporary licence which expires in June.

Such is the bitterness of the dispute that staff are threatening to go on strike for the Stobo Castle Ladies Day on 17th June. If Musselburgh were to close this would be a disaster for Scottish racing and a significant blow for MJR and jockey Joe Fanning who have a consistent above-average strike rate at the Edinburgh track. It appears that the impasse can be settled only through the ballot box. We all hope that the good constituents of Musselburgh cast their votes in a manner for the good of Scottish racing.

Alasdair Ross

Larbert, Scotland - 29th April 2017

Following my recent visit to Middleham, I would like to extend my thanks to those members of staff whom I met in the Mark Johnston yard while on a tour with MJR welfare office Raye Wilkinson. The intent of the visit was to gain an insight into the industry and to discuss with contacts through Raye the opportunities for entering the industry when I finish my degree in Zoology in the summer.

While in the yard I had the opportunity and pleasure to talk briefly with vets Neil Mechie and John Martin, and their assistant Erin Allison. In addition,  groom-rider Emma Bedford kindly offered me advice and shared with me her experience of entering the industry which was extremely valuable. I had more extensive discussions with Sarah Fanning, of Racing Welfare in Middleham, who has provided me with detailed guidance on the next steps for me to follow to pursue a career in racing.

I now plan to apply to a British Racing School after graduation in June to refresh my riding skills before seeking placement in a yard in Middleham, ahead of applying for a place on the Godolphin Flying Start graduate programme.

Again, I would like to recognise the helpfulness and friendliness of your staff whom I talked to during my visit. It was very much appreciated. With sincere thanks and best regards

Charlotte Webb

25th April 2017

I would be very interested to hear Mark’s thoughts on this new Fast Track they’ve suddenly added for the Marathon Final at the All-Weather Championships.

As an avid AW racing fan I follow the AW series very closely and, unlike most bookmakers, I keep a close track of likely qualifiers.  With Antiquarium now sadly out of the picture I have MJR’s Watersmeet, Natural Scenery and the fast-improving Cohesion as the three most likely winners of the Marathon.  That was on the assumption that the four Fast Tracks were done and dusted which, according to all known information, they were.

However, the AW Championships people have tweeted (in early March) that they have added a further qualifier and that Moonrise Landing is on course to run in it. Suddenly the best AW stayer in the land has been provided with a nice little ‘back door’ entry to the final.  It strikes me that this race has been created purely for her benefit, which is great for her connections, but it is hardly fair on those who have campaigned their horses throughout the winter in accordance with the rules originally laid out.  What next, a late additional Middle Distance Fast Track because Tryster wants a run out?

I’m merely a backer of Watersmeet and I’m pretty hacked off about this.  Were I to own, train or look after him I’d be raging!

 

 

Mark replies: Tim is absolutely right to query the addition of this race and the apparent moving of the goalposts for the AW Championship races. I took up the issue with Richard Wayman of the BHA and he explained to me that the situation had come about because the race in question had been listed in the Programme Book as a Fast Track Qualifier but was not on ARC’s list of Fast Track Qualifiers on their website or in any literature they sent out.

 

A similar situation occurred back in January with a conditions race at Wolverhampton but on that occasion the winner, Visionary, subsequently won another Fast Track Qualifier at Dundalk and so is qualified for the final regardless.

 

As it turns out, the race referred to by Tim was won by First Mohican and, with an official handicap rating of 101 and having run more than three times during the AW championship period, that horse is likely to gain entrance to the Marathon final without having to rely on its Fast Track win. If our own Isharah, who finished second, had won and gone on to win the Marathon final, it might have been a very different story.

 

So it seems that, on this occasion, ARC have dodged a couple of bullets but, with so much money at stake, they really should get their house in order and be sure that the rules at the start of the competition are the same as the rules at the end.

 

Tim Smith

25th March 2017

Maybe the manufacturers of the PASS system got the colour of the card wrong (see Straight Talking, January 2017), giving the impression it is something other than a key to enhance one’s exclusive race day experience.

The gold-coloured brochure which comes with the card (maybe the card colour was supposed to match the colour of the brochure?) states that arrangements for leaving badges for collection must be made directly with the racecourses and can be done in advance via the RCA concierge system.

Whether the Racecourse Association will be able to handle all the requests involved remains to be seen. No doubt this will reduce the queue outside the entrance to the fine buffet offered at Western House, Ayr where there is generally a free-for-all for meal tickets just because such and such a trainer said they could get in.

However, top hats off to Ms Vivien Kyles who has sanctioned, along with a handful of other racecourses, that holders of a PASS card can go along to any meeting at Hamilton Park with a guest even although they have no connections with the racing on that day. Obviously, the management at Hamilton Park realise that PASS card holders and their guests don’t just go along for a free ride. As the saying goes, business is business.

Alasdair Ross

1st January 2017

Nothing has given the staff at Hascombe Stud and myself more pleasure than to see how successful Namibian’s retraining at the Godolphin retraining centre has been and that he has qualified for the British Dressage Para Winter Championships in March.

We wish Julie Frizzell and former MJR horse Namibian the best of luck and keep our fingers crossed for them. Please ask Julie to send us any future news.

Best wishes to all at Johnston Racing.

Anthony Oppenheimer

1st January 2017

I have just been reading the Steve Harman question-and-answer interview in the January edition of the Klarion, but have already foundered at his answers to the second question, in which he was asked to detail the achievements of which he was most proud. This is precisely the self-satisfied thinking by the managerial class that brought about the Trump situation – and, thank goodness, Brexit.

I should very much like to have a full and frank discussion with him of the issues I have raised many times in the past. To go through his answers to question 2 in order:

a) We have had too much “growth”. And the items he puts in brackets are in reverse order of their importance.

b) To pretend that horsemen are in control of their own destiny is an abuse of language. Whether other sports are in awe of our system is debatable, although it appears that Cycling and Football (to name but two) may be even more shambolic. Not to mention the Blessed Lord Coe’s apparent ducking and diving!

c) Humble leadership? Methinks he doth protest . . .

d) See my letter in the same January Klarion.

e) I’ll believe it if you will.

f) I doubt if most of his team can spell horse, and they certainly have absolutely no interest in or understanding of staffing issues — otherwise they’d be contracting rather than expanding the programme.

After a lie down in a darkened room I may read on.

Bill O’Gorman

Newmarket - 1st January 2017

Until someone at the BHA faces the fact that they can’t see the wood (of fixed races) for the trees (of “educational runs”), the disciplinary process will remain an expensive farce. There’s been too much “lessons have been learned” nonsense, and in fact the real message here seems to be “our plan is working, send more money”.

A sensible programme book would sort things out overnight – at zero cost.  What’s not to like about self-policing honest racing? Unless, of course, you happen to drawing rations from the current disciplinary budget.
Sadly, looking forward to more of the same in 2017.

Bill O’Gorman

Newmarket - 1st December 2016

James Willoughby (Klarion December 2016) is quite correct to point out that a winning or losing run by any particular trainer is likely to be merely a “quirk” of distribution rather than being due to any kind of exceptional run of form (or lack of it).

It has long been accepted by mathematicians that random distribution produces clusters, and in the case of “trainer form” these clusters will include above average numbers of winners in any particular period of time and also above average runs of losers. It would be useful to punters of course if winners and losers were evenly distributed, but unfortunately the world isn’t so kind!

However I disagree with the implied conclusion that all runs of poor form are down to natural issues of distribution. There are times when a certain trainer’s runners may run well below expectations for long periods. Not just a losing run, but almost all his or her runners finishing well beaten, much more so than the form book might suggest should be the case.

I personally think that there are times when a string is just not “right”, when horses run below their natural ability, often for no obvious reason. Sometimes the cause may be some difficult-to-diagnose “bug”, which sees runners tiring at the business end of a race. After all, it doesn’t take much for a horse to fade badly in the closing stages, in terms of fitness. So it might benefit the serious punter to seek to diagnose the cause of the losing run and rule out statistical quirks before dismissing a trainer as being on the “cold” list.

James Willoughby replies “Stuart definitely has a point that more advanced methods than simply wins-losses are needed. He makes some really good points well.

Once again, however, we are left with the notion of a non-specific “bug”, and the circular reasoning that it’s manifestation is to cause runners to tire and weaken. But many things cause the same effect on healthy horses too, and the handicapping system, seasonality of ground conditions and the trainer’s preparation cycles should all cause form to cluster.  As I have said, I am not here to deny vet science. Groups of horses can have a collective problem caused by infection or other ailments.

My article was to highlight that some – or perhaps most – of poor runs are acausal, not that all of them are.”

Stuart Robinson

Doncaster - 1st December 2016

My friend and I have been discussing the phenomenal success Franny Norton was having around this time a year ago on the all-weather, and the fact he was on course for a record number of winners until his accident back in September.

We are wondering if you have any idea when he will be race-riding again?  We are sure you and your team are very busy, but it would be great if you could let us know how he is doing.

A Happy New Year to you all at MJR and may 2017 reward you with sackfulls of winners!

Franny Norton replies: “I’m aiming to be back riding by the second week of January, with all guns blazing! I’ve really missed being out of the saddle, but I’ve been working hard on my fitness and strength and I can’t wait to get going again. It’s nice to know people have been thinking of me while I’ve been recovering, I do appreciate it.

“I would also like to thank Dr George Wilson and his colleagues at John Moores University in Liverpool who have been a great help to me with my rehabilitation.”

Ken Nixon and Gary Marshall

1st December 2016

While, undoubtedly, the MJR highlight of 2016 was The Last Lion’s Group 1 success in the Middle Park Stakes following a brilliant season, which started in the Brocklesby Stakes at “Donny”, my personal highlight was Yalta winning the Molecombe Stakes at Goodwood.

Yalta showed blistering speed that day, making all in a race where he had a certain The Last Lion back in second. He was thought good enough to have a crack at the Nunthorpe but this proved beyond him. Although The Last Lion has now retired to the breeding sheds maybe Yalta can give us more than a hint of what could have been in the sprinting division in 2017.

The main thing, Mark, is that all the MJR horses have done you proud and long may it continue.  I’d like to wish you and your fantastic team a successful 2017.

Simon Whybrow

Southcote, Reading - 1st December 2016

How nice to see stable staff given the recognition they deserve, as with the Godolphins, and now MJR’s own awards for Mark’s staff.  When employers treat their staff well,they reap the rewards.

It got me thinking how things have changed since I went into racing in 1960. As a 15- year-old I was turned down by trainer Ron Smyth as being too heavy at six stone!

National Hunt jockey Dennis Dillon, whom I knew, introduced me to trainer Jack Sirett, who was a former apprentice himself to the academy of jockeys produced by Stanley Wootton.
I was taken on as an apprentice, even though I had not ridden before and learned on the stable’s pony. My wages were £3.50, with £3 going to my landlady which left 10 shillings for myself. Times were hard, with no days off other than one Sunday afternoon off every fortnight, and just one week’s holiday.
My lodgings were in a house more than three miles from the stables, run by a married couple.There were 10 lads there, four in one room,four in another and two together in a single. The washing we were allowed each week was two shirts, three pairs of pants and socks.
In the mornings we were woken up by the landlord with a cup of tea and a slice of toast before the three-mile bike ride to the yard, to do two lots mucked out from 6.30 to finish around 12.30.The blacksmith nearly always turned up when we were finishing and insisted on all horses being held while he shod.On seeing him enter the yard we scattered to find a hiding place.If you were the unlucky one who had to stay behind it meant a rollicking for being late from the landlady and a dried-up dinner.
Evening stables was from 4pm to around 6.15. I had two horses to look after, with all the straw to be stacked up neatly in oblong fashion. After grooming, the body brushes, dandy brush, curry comb and hoof pick were all laid out on a stable rubber(cloth) on top of the litter for display for inspection at 5.30.
The landlady’s offering for tea was bread and jam and a slice of cake, if we were lucky. If we went into town a chalkboard would be left in the kitchen with our names on, and we’d have to tick our names off as we came home.  The last one in locked up. We were not allowed to use the toilet in the bathroom at night, so had to take a long walk down from the top floor to the outside toilet.This was too much trouble for one lad who shared my room.He would open the window and pee outside straight into the goldfish pond below.  How the goldfish survived I will never know.

We were allowed one bath a week with the strict instruction: “Dont use all the hot water”. I had my first rides when I was 17, for Stanley Wootton who was still training in a small way.  I had rides later for my boss, with my first winnners at the age of 18.I  struggled with my weight, but did ride winners for distinguished owners such as Lord Rosebury and Sir Reginald Macdonald Buchanan.  When my apprenticeship ended in 1965, after endless cycle rides to and from work in all weathers, I was rewarded with a pittance from my boss, who in his wisdom decided to keep the bulk of my riding fees and payments from owners. On informing the Jockey Club I was told it was up to my Master what he did with the money. Once I started riding National Hunt it was great to be in control of riding fees and other monies.
Racing has allowed me to see the world, meet some lovely wonderful people, along with some downright horrible people.
I like to think that racing has come on leaps and bounds by now.

Bryan Leyman

1st December 2016

May I refer you to a recent article in the Racing Post?

Under the heading “My Mentor” Keith Dalgleish pays a very moving tribute to Mark Johnston. This, I believe, deserves as wide a distribution as possible.   May I respectfully suggest that it be reproduced, in the next issue of the Klarion?

Stephen A. Woad

1st November 2016

I agree with Mark (November Straight Talking) that the inclusion of Jason Weaver in the new ITV racing coverage team will be good for racing.
I once met Jason quite casually during a filming session he was doing at the Kingsley House stables. Some months later (after my horse had failed to fire in sticky going at Leicester) Jason came running out of his studio Portakabin and, addressing me by my own name, asked what had gone wrong.

I was totally surprised, not because of the horse’s performance, but by the way Jason had remembered my name after such a comparatively long lapse in time. If we can’t have ‘Tommo’ on terrestrial TV then Jason Weaver will surely be an able substitute. Certainly,  he’s a man of the people.

Alasdair Ross

Larbert - 1st November 2016

I read with great interest Mark’s item headed ‘Unpalatable’ in his Straight Talking column in the November edition of the Kingsley Klarion. He was commenting on the abandonment of racing at Yarmouth on October 18 because of a lack of medical cover.

I was at that meeting. The meeting was disrupted when the 4.50pm race did not finish until 5.15pm because of a loose horse. So as well as the lack of medical cover there was still going to be a problem because it would have been dark for the next race.

I do feel sorry that Mark and other trainers and connections were not compensated, and I think this is something the authorities should look at.  It’s not right.

On a different note, I would like to say that as a proud son of Galloway I have always been pleased that Mark once had a horse (in 2010) named Cairnsmore, after the  mountain which stands above my home village. And it won twice for him!

Les Coltart

Suffolk - 1st November 2016

I just wanted to send Mark a note on behalf of my wife and I to say thanks for the fantastic day we recently spent at your stables.

I never dreamt that when I met you on my 60th birthday that I would be visiting your stables, let alone my wife and I spending the day with you one-on-one. I have always been interested to see what goes on behind the scenes, and I am extremely grateful to you for spending all that time with us as well as answering all of my questions.

As I watch the races now I can really see the results of all the hard work that is put in by you and your team, and how much you look after your horses. The way you have customised the gallops was outstanding and it was great to witness all your hard work and dedication.
I would also like to thank your entire team, in particular Jock and your wife Deirdre, for being so helpful and attentive, making our visit even more enjoyable.  I  can honestly say it was a dream come true, a visit of a lifetime and a day I will never forget. I wish you and your team all the luck for the future.

Alan and Donna Shortman

3rd October 2016

Congratulations to everyone at MJR on the well-deserved success of Oriental Fox in the thirtieth running of the Phil Bull Trophy at Pontefract. Timeform’s founder, who framed the race himself, presented the trophy after the first three runnings, which were all won by Sir Henry Cecil-trained stayers.

The race, which became the richest ever staged at Pontefract in 1989, the year Phil died, has been supported by, and won by, other top trainers since then, including John Dunlop, Sir Mark Prescott, Mick Channon, Saeed bin Suroor and, most notably, by Mark himself who has won three of the last six runnings, the victories of Colour Vision (who went on to win the following year’s Gold Cup) and Statutory preceding that of Oriental Fox.

Ironically, none of MJR’s three winners “nor for that matter the vast majority of the Phil Bull winners over the years” would even have qualified for the race had it been a 0-100  handicap, which is what the BHA wants to make it from next year.

The first four in the latest renewal – Oriental Fox, Burmese, Fun Mac and Cayirli – were all rated over 100 by the BHA going into the race and were just the types for whom the Phil Bull was devised, those who had been running consistently in the Cup races behind the top stayers, or lumping big weights against progressive younger horses in the major long-distance handicaps. Oriental Fox and his three main rivals had run 27 times between them this season before Pontefract, mostly in Cup races or heritage handicaps, and had chalked up just one win (Fun Mac’s success at Salisbury in September in a race similar to the Phil Bull).

I’m a firm believer in the motto that you should never take a fence down before finding out why it was put there in the first place (something that the BHA’s race planning department should pin up on the wall). Where do the race planners envisage the owners of horses like Oriental Fox, Burmese, Fun Mac and Cayirli running at this time next year if the BHA’s grant to the Phil Bull is withdrawn (the BHA will give Pontefract the equivalent sum if it stages the handicap!).

There seems to be a lack of appreciation or respect for the sport’s history and tradition among today’s race planners, and the dismantling of the Phil Bull Trophy is the latest example. The race has existed for 30 years, serving the purpose for which it was devised, and suddenly it is to be consigned to the history books because the BHA has decided it needs another eight-runner ‘bookmakers’ handicap’ (the last two Phil Bulls have had fields of six and seven). What happened to having variety in the racing programme? Those responsible for framing the races should, first and foremost, be catering for the horses, but, all too often nowadays, the business tail is wagging the dog.

Phil Bull isn’t here to make the point (he wouldn’t be mincing his words!) but the BHA needs to reconsider this particular decision. The new handicap will certainly not be the Phil Bull Trophy in any sense and it will be a considerably lesser race, denying Pontefract racegoers the sight of some useful stayers and penalising that racecourse’s executive for trying to put on better racing by attracting better horses, something it should surely be rewarded for doing, not punished for!

Geoff Greetham

Publishing Editor, Timeform Annuals - 3rd October 2016

Dear Mark and the team,

Winning the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes today at Newmarket is in my opinion as good a performance for a two-year-old as we seen all season. Great for John Brown and Megan Dennis and absolutely brilliant for the birthday boy jockey Joe to ride his first Group 1 on one of your horses. Well done to you all up the North. Kindest regards and good luck for the rest of the season.

Congratulations to everyone at MJR on the well-deserved success of Oriental Fox in the thirtieth running of the Phil Bull Trophy at Pontefract. Timeform’s founder, who framed the race himself, presented the trophy after the first three runnings, which were all won by Sir Henry Cecil-trained stayers.

The race, which became the richest ever staged at Pontefract in 1989, the year Phil died, has been supported by, and won by, other top trainers since then, including John Dunlop, Sir Mark Prescott, Mick Channon, Saeed bin Suroor and, most notably, by Mark himself who has won three of the last six runnings, the victories of Colour Vision (who went on to win the following year’s Gold Cup) and Statutory preceding that of Oriental Fox.
Ironically, none of MJR’s three winners – nor for that matter the vast majority of the Phil Bull winners over the years – would even have qualified for the race had it been a 0-100  handicap, which is what the BHA wants to make it from next year.

The first four in the latest renewal “Oriental Fox, Burmese, Fun Mac and Cayirli” were all rated over 100 by the BHA going into the race and were just the types for whom the Phil Bull was devised, those who had been running consistently in the Cup races behind the top stayers, or lumping big weights against progressive younger horses in the major long-distance handicaps. Oriental Fox and his three main rivals had run 27 times between them this season before Pontefract, mostly in Cup races or heritage handicaps, and had chalked up just one win (Fun Mac’s success at Salisbury in September in a race similar to the Phil Bull).

I’m a firm believer in the motto that you should never take a fence down before finding out why it was put there in the first place (something that the BHA’s race planning department should pin up on the wall). Where do the race planners envisage the owners of horses like Oriental Fox, Burmese, Fun Mac and Cayirli running at this time next year if the BHA’s grant to the Phil Bull is withdrawn (the BHA will give Pontefract the equivalent sum if it stages the handicap!).

There seems to be a lack of appreciation or respect for the sport’s history and tradition among today’s race planners, and the dismantling of the Phil Bull Trophy is the latest example. The race has existed for 30 years, serving the purpose for which it was devised, and suddenly it is to be consigned to the history books because the BHA has decided it needs another eight-runner ‘bookmakers’ handicap’ (the last two Phil Bulls have had fields of six and seven). What happened to having variety in the racing programme? Those responsible for framing the races should, first and foremost, be catering for the horses, but, all too often nowadays, the business tail is wagging the dog.

Phil Bull isn’t here to make the point (he wouldn’t be mincing his words!) but the BHA needs to reconsider this particular decision. The new handicap will certainly not be the Phil Bull Trophy in any sense and it will be a considerably lesser race, denying Pontefract racegoers the sight of some useful stayers and penalising that racecourse’s executive for trying to put on better racing by attracting better horses, something it should surely be rewarded for doing, not punished for!

Jack Berry

24th September 2016

I felt compelled to write to say congratulations to you and all your staff for what is becoming a fantastic journey with Rainbow Rebel. My father and I have a few shares through the Owners Group in three horses, one of which is Rainbow Rebel. My father is 91 yrs old and absolutely loves his horse racing.
This journey has given my father a new lease of life and I can only say with hand on heart, thank you for all the hard work you have put into Rainbow Rebel.

Our very best wishes to you and all your staff.

Stephen Ward

23rd September 2016

A very interesting website/Blog/Magazine. Thanks for the privilege of seeing how Johnston Racing operates. Many happy memories, browsing through the horses achievements. Best of luck in all the teams ventures.

Jerome Brown

8th September 2016

I’m a volunteer groom from the Epsom area. I popped over to watch the races on Tuesday on the Downs and I was impressed with the turnout of your grooms, especially their uniforms. I thought they were something to do with the race sponsors until i noticed them leading up the horses. They looked very smart indeed.

Rob Murkin

3rd September 2016

I happened to be surfing the net and came across your website. I just wanted to register my appreciation to you for being considered and accessible when appearing on racing programmes. I thought your recent treatment on the Morning Line was disgraceful. Indeed, I may not have agreed with everything that you said, but the moronic approach of Graham Cunningham was sadly all too predictable. As someone who was attracted to racing by Chanel 4’s coverage in the early 90s and by horses such as Double Trigger I am greatly saddened by the decline in coverage in recent years by that particular broadcaster. A decline, that in my opinion, can be traced back to the introduction of the tiresomely over considered and often ill informed Cunningham. He is truly unlistenable. I find it hard to conceive that the likes of Jim McGrath have any time for him off set as it were.
Anyway, I trust that coverage moving forward will improve in the near future and that you will be afforded basic courtesies by professional broadcasters if you choose to appear on their shows.
As someone who loves racing basically from afar and as a layperson (I have a small share in a 70 rated handicapper trained in Scotland) I have always enjoyed your input. I hope this will continue and you are not put off by empty vessels and blowhards such as Cunningham.

09.08.16 – Simon Whybrow: On reading your comments on all things racing I really do hope that the new ITV racing channel is a complete change from the “betting orientated” Channel 4 programme, although I doubt it will be. There is so much more to racing than just betting and where would the bookies be without the most important thing……..the horses. Having said that they would probably put on more “virtual racing”. Talking of which I was in my local Ladbrokes a couple of weeks ago looking for early prices on the Group 1 race at Deauville featuring a certain MJR trained Lumiere. However, there were loads of screens showing early odds for “virtual racing” but not one screen for a proper Group 1 horse race . . . as I said to the assistant “How sad is that”. Despite her poor show I was really glad that Lumiere got home uninjured and ready to fight another day. Anyway, getting back to Channel 4 they did not used to be like they are today in the Brough Scott days. In fact I found a book that they produced in 1989 which covered pretty much everything that the typical racing enthusiast was interested in including chapters on races and the pattern system, owners, trainers, jockeys and the racehorse. It also included an interesting chapter on “A day at the races with Channel 4 and as you would expect a piece on betting. It was a well thought out book and a really good read, in my opinion. They also used to have some real characters presenting as well, John Francome and Derek Thompson to name but two as well as the extremely irritating John McCririck, the biggest “Booby” that Channel 4 ever made. John Francome and “Thommo” were very approachable and would always answer your racing questions or even engage in conversation unlike the current presenters who seem the complete opposite. It’s a really difficult one trying to think of ways to get people interested in Horseracing but I think having more “Family Days” could be a way forward, especially when people can go into the centre of the course such as at Windsor. For instance you can go over to the starting stalls or watch a race unfold at close quarters between the 2 and 1 furlong poles. Then there is the finishing line as well which all adds to the excitement and racing experience.

I would like to finish by congratulating you and your hard working staff for being the top stable at Glorious Goodwood…again. My highlight was seeing Yalta “blitz” his field in the Molecomb.
Kind regards

Michael Anderson

24th August 2016

Hi,

I would like to forward this email (see below) for the attention of Mark.
It contains a complaint to Ch 4 by me and the reply from them.
I was most annoyed on Saturday with Graham Cunninghams behaviour on the Channel 4 morning line that I sent them an email saying so.
I received thear reply this morning which I didn’t agree with but accepted as the usual bog standard reply !!
However I have just read Mark’s most recent ‘bletherings’ and see that he contradicts the content of the email I received from Ch 4.
I am a follower of horse racing having involvement in 2 separate racing syndicates and appreciate the efforts and views of racing people but thought at the time that Mark was unfairly treated.
I now feel a bit cheated with their reply after reading Mark’s version of events.
I hope that my email is of interest to Mark!

Regards

Alexander.

 

Mark’s response:

Dear Alexander,

I can assure you that I was not aware of who was going to be on the panel until I arrived at the show and I was given no prior notice of the questions to be asked.

I am not complaining but I do think, if they had plans to ask specific questions, sharing them with me in advance would have allowed an opportunity to make considered replies and make much better use of the limited time available.

Best regards,
Mark.

 

Original correspondence between Alexander Frew and Channel 4

Hi,
It’s very unlike me to do this but I found Graham Cunninghams behaviour towards Mark Johnston today was quite offensive and gave the programme an uncomfortable feel.
Mark was on the show as a guest and given his nice and courteous manner he did not deserve an overbearing Graham Cunningham in his face, pointing his finger expressing his views as if he was speaking for everyone and not giving Mark time to respond to questions put to him by Rishi.
Even poor Gina is seen to pull herself in away from Cunninghams aggressive and rude manner.
I for one would be more interested in hearing what Mark had to say that listening to Cunningham having an unsavoury go at him.
Poor show from Cunningham and he needs a rollicking in my opinion !!
This was not good viewing and that’s all down to Cunningham.
Regards,
Alexander.

 

Channel 4 Viewers Enquiries:

Dear Mr Frew,
Thank you for your comments about The Morning Line.
We appreciate you taking the time to contact us with your comments. We are sorry to read of your disappointment regarding this interview with Mark Johnston and Graham Cunningham. May we assure that Mark Johnston accepted the invitation to join The Morning Line and was fully aware of the panel and intended questions. No offence was caused by the sporting discussion and we look forward to chatting with Mark at the York Ebor Festival later this month.
In addition, The Racing Post was very positive about Mark’s appearance on The Morning Line stating “Mark Johnston’s head-to-head with Graham Cunningham on Channel 4’s The Morning Line, in one of the most compelling editions of IMG’s time at the production helm.”
Nevertheless, please be assured that your comments have been logged and noted for the information of those responsible for our programming.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.

Regards,

Kelsey Quinn
Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

Alexander Frew

3rd August 2016

When it was announced that the franchise to broadcast terrestrial racing would change from CH4 to ITV, ROA briefed their members as such: ‘Racing’s rights holders have been helped by legislation that permitted bookmaker advertising on TV. That created a massive new revenue stream that has been exploited by Channel 4 and will now be maximised by ITV which has been keen to expand its sporting portfolio after losing the Champions League and FA Cup.’ As the designated head presenter for ITV Racing has his roots in the betting industry, I don’t see change coming anytime soon.

Alasdaire Ross

Larbert - 3rd August 2016

I totally endorse your comments on the Morning Line regarding entertainment being linked to horse racing.

My local race course is Goodwood and this year I joined as a member. I am also a member of the ROA. I owned outright a mare who won 4 times and finished second 7 times. She was a lot of fun and now she is a broad mare with a foal by Cityscape, and is in foal to Sir Percy. I am far from rich and still work at the age of 73 so that I can still enjoy the fun and thrill of ownership and breeding.

At Goodwood, billed as Three Nights in June, top disc jockeys are booked and the local youth appears in droves for an evening out. On the first such evening last year (2015) fights broke out and the police warned Goodwood management that unless they increased their security, they could not continue. By around the 4th race on these nights many of the youngsters are rolling drunk. On 17th June this year a drunken girl, who appeared under age, fell forward into my partner and came very close to pushing her down the stand steps. On the same evening, whilst making my way to place a bet, a youth managed to empty his pint over the arm of my jacket and I witnessed a jug of Pimms flying through the air in the same area. This was not in the bar but in front of the stand. It rained heavily this evening and everyone packed the area under the stand and no one could move.

Even worse is the treatment of guests. As a ROA member Goodwood normally admits a second person for half price. Despite not having the slightest interest in the disco the guest had to pay around £45/£47 on these evenings instead of £17.50.

Goodwood needs to decide if it wants to be one of the country’s premier tracks or a Disco.

If they must promote discos then they should do so on a separate night.

Just to show that Goodwood is not alone, I had a very bad experience at Chepstow. My horse ran there on a night when Madness were the evening’s entertainment. As soon as my horse was declared to run I tried to book into the restaurant but was informed it was fully booked. Since I had a 230 mile round trip I needed some food. I was offered a special price reduction on a two course meal and a glass of Proseco in a marquee. The normal price was £80. My special deal was £60. A small glass of fizz, a stale pork pie and some limp salad was what I got for my £60. No doubt Chepstow patted themselves on the back and said what a good night we had. I will never run my horse there again because of the shabby treatment.Owners and Trainers facilities is another pet subject of mine. The worst I have experienced is Brighton. I am sure that the building is an old WW11 Nissen hut. Bath is not a lot better and Goodwood, whilst now offering owners a meal, has a member’s bar that often has diabolical service, is cold and draughty, has the most uncomfortable metal seats and a floor that ladies continually get their heels stuck in. The TV screens come from another age and recently water was spotted dripping from the roof onto a TV set.

Please continue your crusade Mark. Many proper horse racing supporters are behind you.

David Keast

2nd August 2016

Just wanted to say you’re spot on about not rolling over to the big bookies in racing coverage. This wonderful sport has enough to sell itself with without bet365 promising they have a bigger one than someone else in every ad break! The blood lines, the many different stories in a race, there’s so much that should be majored on. It’s a general sports fan they’re chasing isn’t it? Most of whom aren’t Oxford scholars but not necessarily thick prats who need to be told who to donate their fiver to either! Please keep telling it like it is. As a fan I love it that I know what I’m getting with your horses.

Colin Harrington

1st August 2016

More often than not my views have been at odds with yours in the past. However, when you were ‘ambushed’ by Graham Cunningham on The Morning Line I was undoubtedly in your corner. You were repeatedly interrupted. It was difficult to see Cunningham’s angle, but possibly he was trying to come across as a controversial and watchable presenter, hoping to get a position with ITV, when he is really quite dull and a turn-off for many viewers.

Robert Stevens

1st August 2016

Yippeeee.. At last someone’s said it. Racing on tv is so driven by the bookmakers that even those who have lived and breathed it for over 60 years are bored by the coverage..I rarely watch it live any more and record the programmes so I can ‘ gallop ‘ over the dross. Stick at ’em Mark, they need to listen, it’s about the long-term future of racing.

Jenny Pitman

31st July 2016

The real problem is that the presentation and marketing of the sport is getting further and further away from racing. Of course racing can’t be immune to all change. What matters is how this is done, and it has been done badly. The new guard has obsessively promoted the image of the racecourse as an al fresco nightclub. The modernizers have been very clever in characterising its opponents as ghastly snobbish reactionaries. Most businesses don’t seek to alienate their core support with quite the vigour that racing has deployed.

Laura Thompson

31st July 2016

Bravo! We can all fully understand the need for racecourses to use their venue to generate income, but this music stuff has just got totally out of hand. We have slid away from catering to the true race enthusiast and a family day out to attracting idiots with untold quantities of alcohol and no interest in a horse whatsoever.

Robert Taylor

31st July 2016

I am 70 and worked in a successful mixed yard many, many years ago. Racing is about the horses, the jockeys, the trainers, the owners; not the betting, the hats, the booze, the pop concerts. Keep on with your campaign to bring more people to the races for the love of the sport.

Pauline Lloyd

30th July 2016

I thought you put your points across well, particularly when questioned by an aggressive Graham Cunningham. It was wonderful how you remained calm and considered in your responses. When racing coverage moves to ITV next year I would prefer seeing you on the programme from time to time rather than Mr. Cunningham.

Norman Barnard

30th July 2016

Congratulations on bringing a new dimension to the debate about the direction in which horse racing is going. Pity you were not given a fuller hearing.

Clive Gaitt

30th July 2016

I couldn’t agree more with what you were saying in such a calm and reasonable way on the Morning Line . . . racing is NOT all about betting and it is depressing to see how racecourses are moving into becoming corporate hospitality and music venues, as if this is a good thing for racing.I’m glad you are putting into words what I’ve been thinking for a while.

Lindsey Sienson-Taylor

30th July 2016

You presented an alternative view about the future of racing both sensibly and courteously. Sadly the opposing pundit was rude and primarily concerned about his own self-interest. There is a specialist racing channel for minority viewing, and this is where such people belong. I wonder what the late great Peter O’Sullevan would have contributed.

Graham Knight

30th July 2016

I am sure many genuine racegoers agreed with everything you said about evening meetings with music. At Epsom recently after watching our horse run, friends who are in the police terrorist squad (off duty) stayed on to watch the Corrs for a while and ended up having to arrest a man who was drunk and behaving in a very aggressive manor. Great night out ! Another friend had a horse running at Lingfield with a music night. She’s not a prude but was shocked by drunk women using foul language in front of children and men lying about with blood on their faces from fights.

Jane Sheehan

30th July 2016

I completely agree with what you were saying. Racing is about the horses and the teams supporting and producing them. It does irritate me that so much time is devoted to irrelevant fashion competitions, alternative entertainment etc., as if the racing isn’t good enough in itself. This does not happen in any other sport.

Cherry Sanders

30th July 2016

I saw you on The Morning Line and you were a disgrace. You could not answer Graham Cunningham’s questions and this portrayed to me that you were just having a typical Mark Johnston bigoted rant for no reason. You could not support your rant with any feasible reasoning.

Kieran Reed

30th July 2016

I totally agree with Mark’s opinions on The Morning Line regarding the drinking , the yobs, and folk not remotely interested in horse racing, some of whom never even leave the bar. And the ignorant way in which Graham Cunningham attacked Mark was disgusting! Well done Mark, you remained very dignified in the face of ignorance.

Liz Hutton

30th July 2016

Myself and my wife, both in our 60s, are regular racegoers. We are both fed up of seeing crowds of people at race meetings in a drunken state, screaming and howling, and the behaviour of these people is without doubt made worse and louder on music days. If a racecourse wants to hold a music concert, why not hold it on a non-race day, and let proper racing people who attend a race meeting enjoy the day without having their day spoiled by thousands of people who attend to get tanked up on alcohol?

Anthony Wadsworth

30th July 2016

What a lot of sense you talked on The Morning Line. It makes a change from listening to those idiots who think they know everything about racing. I used to go to Ascot, Sandown, York etc but it’s no longer about racing, it’s about concerts, fashion, and morons behaving badly by drinking too much. Well done, mate!

Derek Browett

30th July 2016

How I agree with you. I grew up watching the great coverage of Julian Wilson, Peter O’Sullevan, Brough Scott and John Rickman. They showed the horses in the paddock and at the start, offered opinions and left the viewer to make their own mind up. I don’t give a toss about what anyone else has backed.

Graham White

30th July 2016

I do bet, but never in handicaps, for I believe the bookmakers would happily have every race a handicap and every punter drunk. The public are encouraged by the tv pundits to bet in every race, regardless of suitability. I find the the current Ch4 format very dull. It appears to have been given over to bookmakers pundits with their vested interests obviously on display

Bruce Armitage

30th July 2016

I completely support Mark’s view that betting and bookmakers are getting too much coverage on Channel 4. For me it’s taking the soul out of racing. I think the interviews with bookmakers, particularly on the Morning Line, are the most boring part of the programme.

Graeme Rose

30th July 2016

At last someone is talking sense about the way racing is going.

I fully agree with everything you said on tv. Racing should be about the horses and the owners who give us the opportunity to actually experience racing.

Lynda Hounsfield

30th July 2016

Just watching the morning line, and you are right as far as I can understand. I just love horses and watching racing and I’m never tempted to bet. I go racing at Newmarket and watch every Saturday, simply to watch those fabulous animals doing what they do so well. You need to get more coverage on BBC Sportsday programmes and lead them away from such heavy reliance on football. G.C is a bit skewed – it’s the venues that attract the partying drinkers and entertainment – racecourses are indeed fabulous venues, and of course there are those who, just want the opportunity to be seen . . .
Love your horses and comments at interviews.

Liz Bosworth

30th July 2016

I whole heartedly agree with your stance on racing and the response from Graham Cunningham was both rude and biased. Such a response is based upon his and racings supposed dependence on the betting industry and C4’s lack of commitment to the industry and biased betting related coverage.

Craig Keech

30th July 2016

The issue you raised I fully support and wish to thank you; someone from the industry speaking up for Racing and emphasising the need for the future not to be all about the gambling and the product of the venue. I believe your points were actually lost on your main protagonist, who does not understand the depth of hardship to make ends meet for those in the racing industry, nor the requirement for investment and education. Morally, they also do not realise the personal slide into poverty that their objective brings upon individual lives. When the Corporates have established an elite only division in racing and events, then they shall unfortunately reap a product and profit dficit when small racecourses, trainers and owners have left the game.

Matthew Haley

30th July 2016

I have followed your recent comments in the press about mainstream television coverage of racing, and have just watched the above feature. I have to say that as someone who became passionately interested in racing as a 9 year old and have remained so throughout my life, I share many of your opinions.

I found your points about stereotypes becoming further entrenched interesting – I for one am a woman who loves a nice dress and pair of shoes to wear to the races (or anywhere else, for that matter) but my primary reason for attending is the fact that there are horseraces taking place! We’re all well aware that bands at the end of moderate evening cards are moneyspinners for the racecourse (and the bands too), but I agree that they probably do very little to further true interest in the sport amongst the racegoers who have come to see Tears For Fears or whichever act is playing. (They were, in fact, excellent last night at Newmarket – far exceeded my expectations, although I probably only make myself watch one musical act per year at the racecourse!.

Regarding betting coverage, I echo your earlier points in the press about bookmakers loving the free coverage. And why on earth is it that I now know the names, faces and voices of the PR contact of just about every bookmaker in existence? Over the last few years the amount of airtime given to their presence has become hard to account for.

I share your views on encouraging children to become interested, and was very glad you had the opportunity to raise this, and highlight the work that is already so successfully being carried out between racecourses and schools. Social media can play a huge part in growing momentum in this area. Just this morning, the Racing Post Twitter account offered a lighthearted poll, “Which jockey are you”, which seems very flippant on the surface but could actually be useful in terms of gaining demographic data and also sparking further interest among the poll users. More of this kind of interaction with the potential racing public could focus on subjects such as pedigrees, history, but all done in a fun way that isn’t patronising to the poll user etc.

I was also very pleased that you had the opportunity to argue against the claim that betting funds your business and may I say you did so very effectively.

Anna Ward

30th July 2016

It did Channel 4 racing no credit in terms of how you were press ganged on the Morning Line today . Your candour should be congratulated and I was impressed that you stood your ground about the dumbing down of Channel 4 coverage . In fact you made my day as its not often that high profile people in the racing industry are prepared to put their head above the parapet and say non PC statements to the press.

Brian Lipworth

30th July 2016

I couldn’t agree more with what you were saying in such a calm and reasonable way on the Morning Line today…….racing is NOT all about betting and it is depressing to see how race courses are moving into becoming corporate hospitality and music venues as if this is a good thing for racing.I’m glad you are putting into words what I’ve been thinking for a while.

Lindsey Suenson

30th July 2016

Well done this morning. In the face of what came across as a rather rude and overbearing attitude from Graham Cunningham you calmly and logically explained your views. I wish more of the people who are well positioned to introduce meaningful change to racing would take on board the points you make.

George Donaldson

30th July 2016

I’ve all but stopped going to racecourses now, because the horses and the racing have become a support act for other activities and meetings have become a venue for ‘partying’ where someone else clears up the mess. Newmarket has been advertising summer music evenings without mentioning that a race meeting is even happening.

Lyn Fountain

30th July 2016

Thank you for your participation this morning on Morning Line. Graham Cunningham was wearing blinkers I think! Perhaps we could have more information on breeding and also on the Pattern of races. That could educate racegoer’s and armchair supporters of statistics which they didn’t know. Yes they have heard of the Derby and other Classics, but they probably don’t know about other Group 1 races, nor Group 2 or 3.

Hilda Marshall

30th July 2016

I couldn’t agree more with you on your views on betting being the first emphasis in racing today. I was absolutely fuming at the rude and ignorant behaviour of that presenter. I am an owner and can’t stand the way The Morning Line is now.

Anonymous

30th July 2016

The courses are focusing on the wrong type of customer. All that many of these patrons want to do is drink too much and watch pop music. Good luck with your quest to change attitudes. I think you’ll need it because it seems money rules everything these days.

Douglas Riches

13th July 2016

Media believe they are the true prophets dispensing political and social judgements on the masses whilst bending over to their true God of profit in racing by anaesthetising the punters ignorance with betting market fluctuations and disinformation.

(a) Fluctuations
Can be random changes with bookmakers addressing liabilities, fake moves to tempt mugs and influence from TV tipsters. Guess over 80% of shorteners lose. I saw that with my time with Messrs Stein and George in the late 60’s with contrived false favourites or plunges.

(b) Form
Horses are not machines, they peak when they are ready which could be instant, after a build up or never. Some hold their form, others do not. Regardless some may need suited track, distance, going and absence of bad luck to run their best and even then can get beat.

(c) Trainers comments
Stupid for media to put the trainer on the spot about a horse’s well being, suitability for todays race and assumed inferior opposition. All one can say is “We are hopeful of a good run because enough boxes are ticked… otherwise we wouldn’t be here”.

When a horse shows improved form at home surely that information is for the bill paying owners.
In today’s racing the pro bookie bias is good business regardless of fluctuations, gimmicks and inducements to sustain and promote the masses betting interest. In any case sense the media posers are mostly incapable of delivering an intelligent and rounded assessment about race form, going, distance and track suitability, paddock appearance, speed maps, trainers placement habits, training methods and about maintaining horses body and mind well being.
The only media certainty is the need to humour and forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Kevin Hall

13th July 2016

I read your “Bletherings”, the Racing Post and comments in various blogs. Your thinking has been somewhat distorted both by the press and by various commentators, your thoughts expressed on “Bletherings” are in line with my thinking.

Emilio Aliverti

13th July 2016

I have been going racing for over 50 years, Sure, I’m a gambler but I also go because I also love being around the horses jockeys and stable staff. I love the atmosphere, in fact I love everything about the game. But the coverage on television is awful and biased. Take the two Guineas races. All we heard was why did Air Force Blue run so badly? They gave more coverage about his performance than to the winner. The following day Lumiere did exactly the same thing, but there was not a word mentioned about her. I’m a massive Mark Johnston fan and I was frantic with worry that something had gone badly wrong with her. But did they mention her? Did they heck!

Irvin Phillimore

Basingstoke - 13th July 2016

Totally agree with Mark on TV betting coverage being over-stated. The programmes should be about the horses, first and foremost, then the people around them. It’s an ideal time to break with tradition and open the sport up to a wider audience. Show us the horses, behind the scenes with the staff and jockeys, and at the races. Make it a show of the horses and how they relate to the race itself. Your views have opened up the debate at just the right time.

Wayne Goldthorpe

12th July 2016

We fear for the new ITV coverage. We are “old school”, admittedly, but we never seem to see enough of the horses before the race. Is there a reason that we have to listen to the pundits repeating their opinions or asking questions of jockeys and trainers, which surely must mean they are breaking the rule of ‘inside information’? How can anyone say that Channel 4 covers racing as a sport and not a betting medium when the adverts are all from bookmakers?

Chris and Deirdre McNamee

12th July 2016

Mark – I so agree with your comments. Good luck.

Evelyn Faber

12th July 2016

I would just like to say thank you to Mark for your views when it comes to racing coverage. As a huge supporter of horse racing I would more than welcome a change in how it is presented. Betting can be found everywhere, especially now that there is internet and often free wi-fi all over the place, and I for one would like to see more mini-films on breeding, visits to stud farms, career possibilities etc to make racing more accessible to a wider audience and a far more interesting sport than it is presented currently. Betting is not the be-all and end-all of the sport, and Channel Four, ITV and other broadcasters should realise this.

Martin D’Evelin

12th July 2016

You have stated that ITV should refrain from anything related to “betting”. Well, I would gladly endorse that if you and your fellow trainers told the public the weight of each horse prior to every race, and if any horse above or below a set standard was not allowed to race. ITV will of course ignore whatever you may say with regards to “betting”, given it was the original ITV 7 which gained so much limjelight, and they need the bookmakers’ advertising cash.

Peter Sturgeon

12th July 2016

I whole-heartedly agree with Mark’s sentiments regarding owners leading in a winner, as expressed in his Straight Talking column in the July Klarion. I have shares in a few horses, and with some 20 in one syndicate you don’t get the chance to lead the horse in.

I do have a leg in a horse that runs in class 6 races and rarely wins. But we still have great fun with him. Mark’s remarks did make me smile as it reminded me of a particular race when, on a rare occasion, our horse won. I rushed to the winner’s enclosure — only to find my friend and fellow owner leading the horse in with a huge grin on his face.

I still await the day it will be my turn to lead in a winner.

Trevor Milner

Hadleigh - 6th July 2016

It was such a shame to read in the July Klarion the letter from the Harrison family about the sad loss of their horse, Allamericanblaze. He looked a lovely young horse in the picture you printed, with such a beautiful face. It doesn’t seem fair that he never had luck with his health. My sympathy to the Harrison family and all connections, I know he will be missed.

Pat Hoar

Southsea - 6th July 2016

I would like to make reference to an observation that Mark made in his ‘Straight Talking’ column back in September 2015 regarding the Racing Post’s ending of the provision of racing video replays. I’m not a huge gambler per se, but one of the main reasons I subscribed to the Post’s premium subscription plan was so that I could study horses in running and pay close attention to performances and assess the information for myself.
Even by their top tipster’s own admission (Pricewise), this method is the best way to make decisions on identifying potential winners. By no longer providing this service, the Racing Post has seriously eroded their appeal for me and, I have no doubt, many other previously loyal subscribers. As some sort of feeble consolation, the paper now offers more aggressive gambling thoughts and soundbites such as the ‘punt’,the ‘banker’, the ‘blow-out’, the ‘edge’, the ‘extra-edge’, the ‘longshot’, the ‘signposts’ blah blah blah. Enough already!

I would put neither my faith nor my hard-earned cash on any of their incessant prognostications. However, I would like to bet that there are thousands of race enthusiasts, just like me, who feel cheated that the Racing Post has expunged the ability for me to make my own judgements, my own assessments and ultimately my own decisions as to whether or not I want to make a wager.

As Mark alluded in his earlier comments, other competing firms are still showing replay footage. I for one will be subscribing to these alternative publications, as opposed to a backward-thinking, penny-pinching Racing Post.

Paul York

MJR owner, Hong Kong - 6th July 2016

I write with regards to John Scanlon’s Off the Bridle column in the July issue of the Klarion. I could not agree more with his comments on ITV’s appointment of Ed Chamberlin to front the new racing coverage.

Ed Chamberlin? Is he the chap who is the football pundit on Sky Sport? So just what qualifies this fellow as a racing presenter? Maybe as an ex-bookmaker (so Wikipedia informs me) or for the simple fact that he is friends with Sir Tony McCoy. Surely there are better qualified people around to do the job. Has our own Claire Balding been kicked into touch? Maybe she will be part of the team, and I sincerely hope so as she has great knowledge of the sport.

When the new format arrives I do hope it’s not just another betting programme, as The Morning Line has become, (yawn, yawn, boring). The present team have made it into this. I don’t know why they don’t broadcast it from a betting shop. The old team of Tommo and Francome at least made it light-hearted with the banter and laughter.

The general public would, I’m sure, and me included, like to see more stables visits, and chats with the lads and lasses at the frontline. Get the man in the street interested in a great sport. The present Morning Line offers tips, but it’s just opinions, nothing else. I don’t know the success percentages of their tips, but an old racing term comes to mind: ‘Could not tip s***t out of a barrow’.

On a different subject, Mark’s column in the June issue of the Klarion regarding ‘who’s who’ at the races made me smile. He is so right with his observations. The badges the officials wear do look very similar. Surely it’s time to address this. Maybe a change of clothing to identify them? With tongue in cheek I suggest the the Clerk of the Scales wears a blue suit, the senior stewards be in black, and the Stipendiary in brown. The pink suit? Well, I leave you to decide who should wear that!

Bryan Leyman

South Kelsey - 4th July 2016

On a recent visit to Middleham, I had the pleasure of spending a morning with Raye Wilkinson, the welfare officer for Johnston Racing. He outlined the daily activity in a racing stable such as MJR, talked about the welfare of the stable staff and even discussed the history of Middleham. It was clear to see from Raye’s enthusiasm what a valuable asset he is, not only to MJR, but also the wider racing community.

Neil Mechie, one of the MJR vets, also gave up some of his valuable time to explain the problems vets deal with on a daily basis. All in all, it was a very interesting morning. Kind regards to all concerned.

John Shilham

Melton Mowbray - 3rd July 2016

One of the great assets attaching to the ‘Sport of Kings’ is, I believe, the many facets it presents. One of the fascinations is the unique language used to describe the distances over which races are run, the weights carried by the contesting horses, the margins of defeat and victory and the prices offered by the bookmakers against each horse in each race.

Theses forms of measurement and pricing are an essential part of the fabric of horse racing and provide an important part of the traditions attaching to the sport. I was, therefore, disappointed to read in the July Klarion that Mark is untroubled by the thought of racing adopting metric measurements.
I think that all the charm would be sacrificed and the traditions lost should we read or hear that a horse has won by 1 centimetre having raced over 2000 meters at a price of 2.0 and carrying 51.7Kg;, ridden by a jockey claiming 3.18 Kg.

Tradition takes a long time to form but is easily destroyed. In some of the bloodstock sales rings we have lost the ‘guineas’ and now sell in pounds sterling or Euros. ‘The Turf’ is now under attack by the promoters of ‘All Weather Racing’.

Let us not inflict further wanton damage upon a sport steeped in history. Rather let us rejoice in, and enjoy, its traditional idiosyncrasies and the unique charm that they provide to all.

(I understand that the All England Lawn Tennis Club have no plans to change their current scoring system!)

Yours ‘Traditionally’

Stephen A. Woad

Doncaster - 1st July 2016

I am a huge fan of racing, I have been going as a spectator since a child and I am fast approaching my 60th birthday so for a good few years! My enthusiasm fired by my Grandfather and Father. Indeed my Father had horses in training with fellow scot Alec Kilpatrick who trained at Herridge, Collingbourne Ducis now of course part of Mr. Hannon’s training empire! I wanted to say I think your website is outstanding by far the most impressive one I have visited, congratulations. A mile in front of most. I also would like to wish you a successful Royal Ascot, an exciting week ahead fingers crossed for plenty of winners. Regards

Karen Pearson

15th June 2013

It was great to see Captivity win his maiden at Wolverhampton tonight. I enjoyed his company from breaking in and being responsible for looking after him during his tenure at Darley. I hope that he will go on to continued sucess with the Johnston team!

Stuart Summerson

8th June 2012

Still love reading all the bletherings and stuff on the site. Determined to get back down to middleham this summer for a few days. miss it so much, been 12 yrs now, just cant believe that time has gone by. So will pop in for a coffee when I do. Keep up the good work, telling it like it is. regards Dot (ex Sue Chesmore).

Dorothy Wadell

6th May 2012

I would like to say how much I enjoy reading your site. When we came to stay in Middleham last year I was so impressed with the turnout of both your staff and horses. We were always greeted with a friendly Hello as we were watching them either in the town or on the gallops. It was very noticeable which were your horses even before on saw the monogram on the rugs. I hope to see them all again this year probably the end of September. I wish you all the success in the world. A truly professional business. Jill

Jill Saville

Lincoln - 18th July 2011

Hello, my name is Carro and i ride Morning Dress here in Sweden. He is an absolutely fantastic horse and he’s still getting better and better! He’s been winning six times so far and only one time out of money. So far he’s got around 350 000kr. That’s quite ok…=) Last race is the only time he’s been out of money and that’s just because he was stuck behind a lot of horses and didn’t found any gap.. He is always dancing out to his paddock the day after racing looking like a million=) Sometimes he’s a bit “overfresh” to ride and a bit tricky to get into the stalls but he is a fantastic horse anyway! He is still improving so we hope he will keep running for a long time, but after that he’s gonna make someone vary happy as a dressagehorse). Best wishes from Sweden and Morning Dress

Carro

Sweden - 2nd July 2011

Congratulations to election to BHA board-lets hope you get support from other trainers and industry-racing needs common sense and leadership Raj

Rajesh Sharma

12th April 2011

Hello Mark It did not surprise me that the trainer colleague mentioned in your latest ‘bletherings’ seemed to regard you as some kind of unpaid spokesman for the industry. He, like the majority of managers in most businesses, is more than happy to let others make the running. It’s a case, perhaps, of not so much being ‘unwilling’, but rather ‘unable’ to front run. Quite what one does about that I’m not sure. In the end, of course, the ‘market’ will sort it out, but in my book he’s heading for ‘Carey’ street. Best wishes for the coming season

Johnny Naughton

24th March 2011

hi mark wish you and your yard the best of luck with the season ahead looking forword to following runners this year as i always do. you are doing a super job

Simon Sherry

12th March 2011

To Mark and all your Team, I want to thank you all, for the tremendous enjoyment you have given my father and i over the last couple of months ,December and January, You see my Father is 80 years old and he lost his wife to a Long illness last July, He now lives alone as i work away most days and only get to see him at weekends.As the winter set in, he got a bit depressed (naturally after a bereavement) In an effort to get my dad out and about i have rang him everyday and encouraged him to have a small wager (10 or 20 euro) on your runners on the all weather,In the beginning just a single bet ,but of late the odd double, It was absolutely brilliant to have him(Dad) ring me in the afternoons and hear the shear delight in his voice as he describes how Joe or Greg had hit the front and booted home another winner.He now rings me in the morning when I’m on the road to discuss your runners for the day, This might be a bit daft to you, but it gets him out of the house every morning , it has put a little pep back in his step, so to speak,and given him something to focus on, it has lifted his mood So thank you very much,Continued success ,And keep up the good work . Yours in Life Mark Ryan Clonmel

Mark Ryan

Clonmel - 3rd February 2011

Just had lunch with HAGGAS and STOUTE who tell me this is the best site on the web.

Jeremy Hindley

26th January 2011

Hi Mark, Proud of you big guy. You serve Scotland proud. Keep the winners coming.

Sam Munro

25th January 2011

Wonderful page on tendons and tendon injuries. I am a vocal opponant of better winning through chemistry and will be referring others to this site… Thank you! Linda Broussard Racehorse Owner in Texas and Louisiana

Linda Broussard

14th January 2011

I follow your horses every day, and have made a nice profit over the past months. Keep up the good work merry christmas and a happy and prosperous new year to all your team.

Paul Dean

7th December 2010

I am a great follower of Mark’s and as an exiled Pom now living in Melbourne I had a serious ante post wager on Eastern Aria. I should have known better given the focus of the handicapper to give the Aussies ‘a fair go’and Bart Cummins a 13th Cup. The ironic thing is that if the horse had been named as an emergency as they have for all the other big races ,she would have had a run, as Luca Cumani’s horse Bauer was scratched before the race. It compounded my sense of injustice. So You Think will be an interesting horse to watch in Europe next year. He was perhaps pushed a bit too far in the Melbourne cup but he is sure to make a big impression over the 1 mile 4f+ distance. Hope Eastern Aria gets to run in Melbourne so that I can recoup some funds!

Peter Metcalf

4th November 2010

Paul Hanagan doesn’t seem to ride for MJR, as he is the top jockey,in the country I am wondering why?

Brian

14th October 2010

Hope you are having a ball as one of the countries leading trainers. Lots of happy memories when I see you’ve got a horse out.

Ribot the Whippet

11th October 2010

Why doesn’t Paul Hannagan ride more of your horses?

Brian Card

8th October 2010

In my Off The Bridle column in the October issue of the Kingsley Klarion, which will be posted to subscribers this week, I criticised the idea of the recent BHA auction of distinctive racing colours as an effective way of drawing new owners into the sport.

In doing so, I nonetheless welcomed the benefit to Racing Welfare and Retraining of Racehorses, as I understood the proceeds of the original auction, £28,000, were to be split between those charities.

In reading today’s edition of the Racing Post, I read (BHA reopens auction for horse shoe silks, p18) that in fact only 5% of the auction proceeds (£1,400) is going to the charities, with the remainder to be spent on new initiatives to attract and retain new owners.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the BHA could contribute the whole proceeds of the auction for the remaining set of colours to two such worthwhile causes?

John Scanlon

3rd October 2010

Mr Johnston, I follow your horses with blind faith but my faith is beginning to wane on your horses with Dettori on board, I have just watched him ride Rainfall in the SUN CHARIOT and he never gave it a chance, it was flying at the finish. I know that Joe cannot ride every horse but please use someone else other than Dettori because he cannot ride Johnston horses even though he is supposed to be the top jockey.

Mr H Brassington

2nd October 2010

Your experiments/research with your overground endoscopy are brilliant. It advances understanding and hopefully will help supply solutions to race horse wind problems. Thank you for providing this article on your website. I would love to be involved with your experiments. Great job! Yours truly, Loren Bolinger Running Horse Farm LLC

Loren Bolinger

Running Horse Farm LLC - 30th September 2010

Please confirm where Satin Love was bought? Thanks, he is a lovely horse, hope he does well in 2011 and hello to Raj from Newmarket, I think I talked to you there about 2 years ago. Well done all with Eastern Aria, Corsica and Sea Lord who ran great.

Peter Hadden

16th September 2010

Dear Mr Johnston Appreciate your views on RFC ; just amazed the industry and stakeholders are putting up with all this nonsense that these people have the capacity and ability to bring a bigger new clients to the industy. There is no body on the board REL who will be worried or has a vested interest in seeing a change. In simple business terms it’s about product and price of your leisure experience : <> Entry /food too expensive. Put on a good product. Hope a few trainers like yourself keep fighting and talking for the industry otherwise we love will be like greyhound racing/mining industry !!! Raj Sharma, Newmarket

Raj Sharma

Newmarket - 13th August 2010

I read with interest and a some disgust in MJ’s bletherings that some plebes in Scotland (I am Scottish) have been knocking him about losing favourites. It is not MJ who makes the odds. Try again plebes/losers which ever cap fits.

Thomas Bonnar

9th July 2010

Working for Darley in Australia. Having worked for MJR as vet assistant back in 2000. Good to see MJR doing so well and enjoy the bletherings !! Watch out for the Aussie Denman a 3yo colt by Lonhro, due to run in the Newmarket Cup. Great horse. I see my old job is going, could almost be tempted to move ha ha !!!

Susie Young

23rd May 2010

Musidora cut up in BB’s favour, the Swettenham appears stronger at the moment. Aviates form is not strong, but good. Ballydoyle are having trouble, so the danger might be Pink Symphony or the improving Red Fantasy, but I make BB some way better than MDMedici… so all guns firing; tally-ho

Tim Preston

10th May 2010