By Nicholas Godfrey
GB: Britain’s record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently in lockdown at home with his family at his Middleham stable.
The Kingsley House trainer, the winningmost trainer of all-time in Britain, developed typical symptoms last week before receiving confirmation on Wednesday that he is suffering from COVID-19.
“I didn’t really want any publicity because I didn’t want to make a meal of it,” said Johnston. “I’ve been isolated since last Tuesday but other people are a lot worse off than I am; other people have bigger problems so you don’t want to blow it up.”
Johnston, 60, reported that he did not really believe he had contracted coronavirus when he started coughing last week. “It started with a cough and I tried to play it down,” he said.
“I didn’t really think I had it but after four days my temperature was off the scale and then I had no choice but to accept it.
“I did one of those tests you have to pay for,” the trainer went on. “We were fairly sure, but we got the result of that yesterday.”
“I would have described it as flu until I got the test result, although whenever I’ve had the flu in the past it lasts only about 48 hours and this has gone on day after day. The last couple of days I’ve been stuck in bed with a really high temperature but I’ve lasted a little bit longer today.
“Hospital is the last place I wanted to go given what you see on the news. I’ve had an online consultation and the doctor keeps telling you that as you’re continuing to breathe okay, then stay at home and don’t go to hospital, so that’s what I’m working on.”
Johnston became the most successful British Flat trainer of all time on August 23, 2018, when Poet’s Society won at York to provide him with the 4,194th winner of his career. Only two others, Richard Hannon Sr and Martin Pipe, have reached the 4,000-mark.
Johnston has trained more than 100 winners for 26 consecutive seasons, hitting the double century nine times. The trainer’s famous motto is ‘Always Trying’; now he is eager to get clear from the virus and ready his stable for the eventual resumption of racing in Britain.
In the meantime, Johnston is relieved that none of his immediate family seem to have contracted the virus, while there have been only a few instances of self-isolation among his staff.
During the quarantine period at Kingsley House, Johnston’s wife Deirdre and son Angus have been a hit on Twitter with their almost-daily acoustic sessions. ‘Now you know why they’re doing it,” laughed Johnston. “Because they’re locked down here with me!”