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Johnston enjoys winning "thrill".

Byline: Jonathan Kay

LEADING racehorse trainer Mark Johnston has spoken of the "thrill" that he and his family enjoyed when Idolize became his first winner as a greyhound trainer in landing a Pelaw Grange handicap on Sunday. Interviewed on At The Races, Johnston said: "It was a great thrill to get the first winner, it's been a frustration to have failed so far! I think we'd had 16 runners before Sunday ... so it was good to get one in the bank albeit that it was a very small race." Idolize, one of three littermates Johnston has in training, was sent off odds-on for the contest, but Johnston said: "Just as in a horse race we were hopeful rather than confident. She'd been favourite the week before as was our other dog, Crush, but she'd suffered interference and he'd fallen so we'd been knocking on the door a little bit but never got any luck in running. It was just a relief to get a clear run." Johnston had previously revealed that his venture into greyhound training had come about after a chance meeting in Ireland and he elaborated on the circumstances. "A friend, Peter Kelly, introduced me to Mick O'Dwyer who is a greyhound breeder and over a few pints I started telling him I could train greyhounds. "It went from there to an agreement that he would give me half of three dogs in return for training them and I shook hands on that and thought no more of it until I met him again at a horse sale in December 2010 and he said 'the puppies have been born'. "I then had to come home and confess to [wife] Deirdre what to I'm sure if I was really to I'd agreed to and in January we got a call to say could we collect three greyhounds at Leeming Bar services. They were 12-week old pups at that stage and the rest is history." Asked if there were similarities between training horses and greyhounds, Johnston said: "I'm sure there are which is why I was confident I could do it. Having said that, I'm not going to brag about having won a little race at Pelaw. "It's very much a hobby for me, my sister does most of the work and we don't take it to o seriously. trying to compete at the top level and trying to do it commercially I'd have to do a lot more work with the dogs. "We're trying to keep it very low-key. They're very much my dogs and it's a family hobby, the whole family treks along to the dogs to watch them." He reflected on the early struggles he had in placing his trio of greyhounds. "To begin with I had to run in open races, I was an unattached trainer, and that made it very, very difficult indeed. "It's only recently that David Gray [RM] allowed me to become attached to Pelaw and it means the dogs can run in graded races and that's making a big difference now because they certainly didn't have the experience. They were thrown in at the deep end and I think that's why we were struggling early on. "Idolize is actually by far the weakest of my three dogs. Crush does the best times, Affection is next best and Idolize is a poor third but she was the first one to get graded on at Pelaw and hence she's the first winner. "Crush did a tremendous [trial] time on Sunday at Pelaw and we're very hopeful that he's a really nice dog, almost certainly open class but just desperately lacking in track experience." Finally Johnston, who is now in Dubai for the racing carnival, revealed that he might also have a greyhound assignment there at some point. "Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed [who has horses in training with Johnston] has got great interest in dogs, he's got quite a few greyhounds himself, and we've joked about a match race in Dubai, one of his against one of mine, so that might come about you never know."a"

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Mark Johnston: Pelaw success
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 17, 2013
Words:688
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