Everything is 'coming up roses' these days for Marvin Johnson.
So much so, you couldn't blame the 59-year-old horse trainer if he started every work-day by pinching himself andwondering, "Is this for real.... and how long can it last?"
'Marvy', as his close associates refer to him, seemingly, can do no wrong.
He's winning races at a 48% clip, saddling 31 head in the first ten days of Fonner Park racing--notching 15 victories--that's nine more wins than he and his wife, Christy, accumulated for the entire meet just one year ago.
"Conditions win races," explained Johnson, "and it just so happens that my horses came in here fit. My good fortune has been having the right stock for the right spots."
Don't forget to factor in a little 'racing luck' along the way.
Top jock Jake Olesiak has been on-board every Johnson winner, setting a torrid pace in the rider standings. At 39% (34-89), Olesiak has quickly established himself as one of the hottest jockey's in North America.
Hair-raising photo finishes are going Marvy's way. A 'bob' here, and a 'bob' there have accounted for several triumphs.
Then, a seven-year-old brood-mare comes out of retirement, Quiet Illusion, following a three-year layoff, and wins a maiden race going four furlongs....on just a few days training. A feat that's almost unheard of anywhere in racing.
Johnson admits he's been down this road before and states, matter-of-factly, "It'll all shake out soon. What goes up in this business must come down."
Spoken by a true horseman.
Johnson grew up in O'Neill, Nebraska and was the son and grandson of horse trainers (both named Andrew). At the age of 15 he dropped out of school and began galloping horses for Warren Lamont. While most of us were learning how to drive cars and tie Windsor knots, 'Marvy' was plying his trade in places like Sportsman's Park in Chicago and Detroit Race Course.
"I thought I knew it all back in those days," said Johnson, "but I wouldn't recommend doing it that way anymore."
At the age of 19, Johnson got a huge break when Mrs. Emma Fonner Corey came calling, offering a trainer's
position with O.K. Farms. That led to Ogataul, winner of 11 stakes and $292,000, and all his siblings. Mount Air,
Delavaro and Fonn Da Blue were sired by Navan out of the mare Deberine. All were placed in the care of young Marv Johnson.
Barely in his 30's, Johnson was well on his way to the Nebraska Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
In his 40's, Johnson racked up six training titles just here at Fonner Park alone.
By the age of 50, Johnson had split his stable and headed to Indiana. It took more than ten years to establish
himself back east, but good things come for those who wait. Johnson finished second in the trainer standings at Indiana Downs last summer. He sold a colt, Bisque, for $160,000 and bought eleven acres of ground less than two miles from the track.
Life is good.
Away from the track-- even better.
It's Grandpa Marvy now. Daughter's Ashley and Casey have reared four children--with a fifth on the way. Taylor will be a senior-starter on next year's Kansas St. volleyball team. And only son, Ty, just recently qualified for the State Wrestling Tournament as a Junior at Northwest High School.
"And the glue that makes this all stick, is my wife, Christy." adds Marv. "She's not only my rock, she's my boulder."
Horse owner and Grand Island native Monte Hehnke would concur.
"Christy holds things together, even back in the barns," said Hehnke, "but Marv's success is no accident. He's been down as recently as three years ago; yet, there's no b.s. about him. He's a good communicator, honest....an old-school guy who does things the right way."
"It's all kind of a blur when I think about the past," said Johnson. "These days, all I can remember is today and yesterday. But, if I hadn't been born into racing, I'd probably be pumping gas. Since there are no gas attendants
anymore, who knows? I've never had a real job."
How about a flower shop, Marvy? Right now, everything in your life....is coming up roses.