09/30/2003 11:00PM

Thistledown: Yagour-Johnson split


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Owner Mark Yagour and trainer Gary Johnson, the most successful owner-trainer team in Ohio for the past seven years, have parted company.

"Mark gave me the opportunity of a lifetime; we had it all." said Johnson. "I've been contemplating this decision for a year."

Yagour got involved in racing 13 years ago. For the first six years he raced a string of horses split among two or three trainers. In 1996 he consolidated his 50-plus horses with Johnson, and was the leading owner here from 1995 until 2001.

In 2001, Yagour ranked seventh among owners nationwide in number of wins. His current string of horses numbers more than 100 - 40 are stabled at Thistledown, 20 at Mountaineer Race Track, and the balance on his 57-acre farm in Claridon, Ohio. Trainer Steve Trevino, who has worked with a small stable in California since 1991, will now handle Yagour's Thistledown outfit.

Johnson, a Cleveland native, trained with varying degrees of success until teaming up with Yagour. Since then, he has been the leading trainer at Thistledown for the past six seasons, and has won a record 22 meet titles - one more than the old record held by Shirley Girten.

In 2001, Johnson finished seventh in the nation in number of wins. Perhaps his greatest day came on Nov. 27, 1999, when he saddled six winners.

"It's exhausting going up and down the road [between here and Mountaineer] and I can not stay focused working both race tracks," Johnson said. "I'm going to concentrate my stable at Mountaineer. That's where the money is. I have 20 stalls and would like to increase my stable to 30 or 40. Hopefully someone will notice what I have done and send me their horses."