Johnson named August Trainer of the Month

By Elaine Knepp, race marketing intern at Indiana Grand

Marvin A. Johnson is a renowned trainer in the horse racing industry. Indiana Grand has had the pleasure of hosting him since 2003. He took a two-year break from a then “Indiana Downs” in 2005 and 2006 and rejoined the program in 2007. In 2014, Johnson received Leading Trainer at Fonner Park in Nebraska.  This year, he is hitting many marks again and recently received Trainer of the Month for August at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino.

Marvin Johnson received a new exercise saddle in his stable colors of red from Kevin Greely, director of racing, for his honor as August Trainer of the Month. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Marvin Johnson received a new exercise saddle in his stable colors of red from Kevin Greely, director of racing, for his honor as August Trainer of the Month. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Johnson was born and raised in Grand Island, Neb. He now spends six months of the year at his farm in Nebraska and the other six months are spent at his farm in Fairland, Ind. He has been married to his wife Christy, who is also a trainer, for more than 30 years. He has four children, three girls and one boy.

Johnson has been in the horse racing industry, as a trainer, since 1974. When asked what got him interested in the industry, he stated that his, “grand dad and dad both trained.” When asked which horse that he has trained was his personal favorite, he responded with, “Ogataul has been my favorite. He was a real Nebraskan bred superstar.”

Ogataul was foaled March 13, 1977. Across his career, he achieved 83 starts, and of those starts, he won 23 races, placed second 20 times, and earned eight third place spots. He had average earnings of $3,529 per start. His career lasted from 1979 to 1985. His best year, as far as wins, was 1981. He had 14 starts and of those starts he had six wins. His total purse earnings that year were an astounding $76,996, which was impressive for the time period before modern day purse money.

Another one of Johnson’s successes includes R Luckey Charlie. R Luckey Charlie was foaled March 29, 2013, and has a career total of nine starts, and of those starts, he has three wins. His total earnings for 2016 alone are $123,919. His average earnings for each start were $17,239.

Throughout the course of Johnson’s career, he has had an astounding 12,290 starts and has won 1,895 of those starts. Johnson is ranked 277 of 5,352 trainers this year, with 222 starts and 37 wins. His most impressive record to date is his success in 2014. In 2014, he was ranked 98th of 6,175 trainers, based on wins.  He had purse earnings over $1 million. It was estimated in that year that only about 200 trainers actually earned more than $1 million nationally.

Johnson is also on the board of directors for the Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA). He explained that HBPA “is horsemen protecting horsemen.” Other than his love for horse racing, Marvin Johnson enjoys eating at any greasy spoon and his favorite color is red. He loves George Straight, and he never misses CNN or Fox News.

Johnson is currently ranked among the top five trainers at Indiana Grand. Horses from his barn have earned 29 wins and more than a half-million in purse earnings. Johnson’s horses hit a major hot streak in August, winning numerous races, including the $150,000 Governor’s Stakes with R Luckey Charlie with Richard Bracho aboard.