Prolific Mark Johnston aims to be Yorkshire Festival’s top trainer again

FESTIVAL FEVER -- the annual Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival kicks off on Saturday.

FESTIVAL FEVER -- the annual Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival kicks off on Saturday.

Star trainer Mark Johnston says he is hoping to become top trainer for a second successive season at this year’s Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival, which gets under way at Ripon on Saturday.

“Being the leading trainer last year was great, although it is not something you can specifically target,” the Middleham maestro said.

“However, I am planning to have lots of runners over the nine days and hope enough of them will win to give me the title again.”

Johnston, along with his so Charlie, who is his assistant trainer, was speaking from his state-of-the-art yard to launch the 2016 Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival. He plans to set the tone for his challenge with an entry of eight runners on the opening day.

The prolific Johnston’s horses have been in fine form, enabling him to pass the century mark of winners for the year and putting him well on course to reach his season’s target -– a very precise 247 winners, which would be a personal best by some margin.

“That was the target at the start of the year, but I have lost a few horses lately and some of the Godolphin horses are due to leave shortly to be prepared for Dubai, he said. “But I am still hopeful of getting there.”

The Summer Festival, now in its tenth year, brings together all nine Yorkshire courses with meetings on consecutive days and while the racing is the centrepiece, the aim is to provide fun for all the family.

Having taken part for the first time in 2015, Wetherby is not part of the Festival this year while a new grandstand is being built, but will be back in the fold for next year.

The Festival moves from Ripon to Redcar, on to Beverley then to Catterick, Doncaster, Thirsk, York and finally Pontefract on Sunday, July 24 when the leading trainer will receive the prize of a weekend break at the luxury Goldsborough Hall, along with the Byerley Turk Trophy, named after one of racing’s three founding sires, who is buried in the Hall’s grounds.

During this year’s Festival, racing journalist Dave Yates, of the ‘Mirror’ newspaper and Racing UK, will be cycling from course to course, a distance of nearly 450 miles, to raise funds for Jack Berry House in memory of his press-room colleague Ray Gilpin, who died last year.

Yates welcomes anyone wanting to ride along during his eight days in the saddle. To support him, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/goracing.

Johnston said: “It’s a great effort by Dave and I am hoping to join him when he rides from York to Pontefract”.