Jockey Mark Johnston, the third leading rider in Maryland history, has decided to return to Pimlico and Laurel Park on a fulltime basis after spending the spring on the Southern California circuit."Business is better than expected considering I haven't ridden here all year," said Johnston, who has recorded 2,748 of his 3,050 career wins in the state. "I really haven't ridden in a month (last rode on June 13 before Thursday) but I am feeling better every day and ready to give it 110 percent."Originally Johnston returned to ride for King Leatherbury as the legendary conditioner began the Laurel Park summer meet just two wins shy of becoming the third trainer in history to reach the 6,000 win plateau."I was home in Kentucky when we made the arrangement," said the 32-year old rider. "It is an honor that Leather wanted me aboard this milestone. He has been extremely loyal to me, using me as a bug back in 1990. He was a big reason I was able to win the Eclipse Award that year for top apprentice. But even more impressive was the fact that he stuck with me when I struggled over the next three years. I'll never forget that." In early January, Johnston announced that he was taking an indefinite break from riding and traveled the country during the first three months of the year. He relocated to Southern California in late March, riding the final three weeks of the Santa Anita meet and spent two months riding against some of the best riders in the country at Hollywood Park."Riding in Southern California made me a better rider, but the quantity of business just wasn't the same," explained Johnston. "I met some of the best people in the industry and got a chance to see a lot of things but from the moment I rode my first race of this meet, I realized that this is where I want to be. This is home."Johnston, who has 18 wins in 211 mounts this year, won a career-best 336 races in 2000 and won 328 races as a bug rider 10 years earlier. He was the leading rider in the state those two years as well as 1994 and 1995. Johnston has won over 200 races nine times in a career that began at Churchill Downs on May 24, 1989.
Gordon Becraft regains the book for his longtime client.