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Mark Johnston: Charlie's takeover already proving to be a good idea after early winners for record-breaking team

Mark Johnston, trainer of over 5,000 winners since 1987, handed full control to son Charlie at the start of 2023; the team have celebrated two winners from their first three runners this year; Subjectivist targetting Saudi Cup day return

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Record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston says the decision to handover full control of their license to son Charlie has already proved fruitful with the team enjoying two winners from their first three runners.

Record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston has been enjoying taking more of a backseat as son Charlie makes a flying start to life as sole license holder of their powerful team of horses.

Johnston senior, the most successful trainer in British racing history, has been working in partnership with Charlie since early 2022 but announced he would be relinquishing his official role at the start of the New Year.

Charlie has started in style, getting off the mark with just his second runner at Kempton on Wednesday, before making it two winners from his first three as Demilion scored at Wolverhampton on Thursday.

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"I've tried to put emphasis on the fact I'm not retiring but we're already seeing the change with Charlie getting a lot more coverage," Mark Johnston told Sky Sports Racing. "Over the years we've been great believers in never standing still and moving the business forward.

"Charlie has done more and more of the planning and had greater and greater input with entries. I've been relying on him to do that for several years now.

"The joint license just didn't really do it for us and we decided at the end of the year that there was nothing to be gained from delaying the switch to Charlie being in charge full-term.

"We're only a few days in but it's already looking like a good idea!"

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Mark Johnston has enjoyed a remarkable record-breaking career as Britain's winning-most trainer and insists he has no regrets as he hands over power to son Charlie.

Reflecting on a remarkable career, which included over 5,000 winners in total, Mark added: "The horse that I'm most proud of, by a country mile, is Attraction [winner of 1000 Guineas in 2004].

"She had those infamous dodgy front legs and strange action but she is one of those examples where I can think that perhaps nobody else would have achieved as much with her.

"I've become associated with stayers, which is strange when you think I've not won a Derby, and my best horses have arguably been milers.

"There's many race at Royal Ascot I've never won but I'd still rather win the Gold Cup again.

"Those top class stayers are just wonderful to watch. Those are the races I enjoy most.

"When I started, most people I spoke to said: 'Don't do it!' If I was talking to someone in the same position now, I might give the same advice!

"I ended up in Middleham almost by accident and that turned out to be a great thing. I'm delighted that it worked out that way and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

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Subjectivist 'reasonably on target' for Saudi return

Subjectivist, the latest star stayer for team Johnston, is working his way back to full fitness after a tendon injury which has seen the 2021 Gold Cup winner sidelined since that victory at Royal Ascot.

The Saudi Cup undercard in Riyadh next month is the target, if the horse can shed enough weight before the meeting on February 25.

"Everything is going well so far," Johnston said. "Charlie was telling me yesterday that he's 40kg overweight, which is still quite a lot, but considering he's been off for so long, we're happy that we're reasonably on target for Saudi.

"It would just be exceptional to get him back. The ultimate would be to win the Gold Cup again with him but we felt it was better to aim at something earlier in the year in case something went wrong, in which case he might still have time to retire to stud this year."

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