Will Johnston joins the training ranks at Callaghan Park.

Published 6 June 2024

Will Johnston joins the training ranks at Callaghan Park.

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Rockhampton’s newest horse trainer Will Johnston, 20, who was only granted his trainer’s brief on Wednesday, may well be currently the city’s youngest horse trainer but don’t be fooled by his youth.

Will has that scarce quality which in this era is becoming as “rare as hen’s teeth” in that he exemplifies the idiom of an “old head on young shoulders.” 

I first became aware of that when Will was just 11 when he bred chickens and sold them through the regular Gracemere monthly chook auction to get some pocket money. If that’s not an old head on young shoulders, what is? 

As the son of former jockey turned trainer Rockhampton’s Darryl Johnston and with mum Jess Ladbrook the foreperson for trainer Jamie McConachy, it was no surprise to learn that Will Johnston was horse mad from a young age.

“I grew up wanting to be a jockey and became registered as a stable hand when 14. At 16, I commenced riding trackwork at Callaghan Park. I soon realised I would be too heavy for a jockey so I moved to the next chapter in my mind, setting out to become a trainer one day,” Will said. That dream came to fruition on Wednesday when QRIC and Will signed-off on that licence and Will’s new chapter in racing commenced. The writing has been long on the wall to Will’s mentor, the very successful Rocky trainer Graeme Green that Will Johnston’s next chapter was not one of fiction.

“Will has been with me for two years and he has always done a very good job. You only have to tell him something once and it is done. He is very reliable and is kind around the horses. As well as that he rides very good trackwork. Not only that but he is very responsible and handles responsibilities well,” Graeme Green enthused.

There can be no better endorsement than that as for more than a year now Will has been the regular trackwork rider of the Green’s millionaire earner and stable star, the dual Rockhampton Cup winner Master Jamie. Currently he teams up with Jamie each morning as they go riding together on the Callaghan Park training tracks. Master Jamie is one of about 10 horses Johnston rides track work each morning. 

“Greenie has really helped me a lot. He has showed me so much not only in regard to the training aspect of horses, but also other fundamentals involved with their care and much about racing itself,” Will said.

The “master and his apprentice’’ certainly have mutual respect for each other and Graeme Green is quite comfortable with his thought process that when he retires down the not so long future track, he would endorse and recommend Will to take over his team of horses.

“I will certainly support Will in that regard when the day comes,” Green said.

Wisely, Will has no plans to jump in headfirst into his new career and is content to take things along steadily. “I will start off pre-training one for Jamie (McConachy) and take it along steadily from there. I will still be working for Greenie,” he said. 

Given the bond between Master Jamie and Will in that he also straps the champ most race days, I put his judgement to the test seeking a little inside stable knowledge, so to speak.

“How is Jamie progressing in his lead up to attempting to win three successive Rockhampton Cups,” I asked Will expecting the usual passionate and confident response from his ilk.

I should have known better. 

“He is going along quite well in his trackwork, and I think his last start Emerald Cup win has boosted his spirits,” Will said in the mode similar to a response from a diplomatic politician.

As I said “old head on young shoulders’’ which augurs well for the training career of one Will Johnston.


In other racing news. Namazu the recent winner of the $775K Rocky Amateurs The Archer (1300m) will contest the $160K Spear Chief Handicap (1500m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday for trainer Ricky Vale and Brisbane jockey Ron Stewart. Connections must consider Namazu has solid prospects as his Rockhampton managing owner Pav Cheimardinov said he has been “paid up” for, should he make the cut for the $3M GR 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) on Saturday week. Trainer Graeme Green and Master Jamie’s connections won the $41K QTIS 2YO Maiden (1050m) at Mackay today (Thursday) with debutante Better Than Ready filly Mahia a $90,000 2023 MM March Yearling Sales purchase. Green and winning jockey Jackson Murphy combine with last start winner Outback Bandit in the $118K QTIS 2YO Classic (1200m) at Townsville on Saturday. Fellow Rockhampton trainers Tash Chambers (Age Of Aquarius) and Clinton Taylor (I’lltellyougo) will also start that pair in the big race. Former leading Rockhampton trainer Tom Button will start Capricornia Yearling Sales 2YO Classic winner Silver Glitter as well as talented Head Honcho. Button is looking for a belated birthday present after turning 45 today (Thursday). Check your form guides readers as a number of Rocky trained horses are running at Townsville on Saturday. Iconic bush champion Fab’s Cowboy chases his 55th race win at Moranbah on Saturday. Prominent Rocky jockey Warwick Satherley has a full book of nine rides at the giant Barcaldine race program on Saturday. Reminder again of the Pink Ribbon charity day races at Callaghan Park on Saturday week. Much for you to check out about the day on this Facebook Page or Callaghan Park RJC website. 

Happy Horses Tony McMahon.

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