Eve Johnson Houghton is, of course, the daughter of Fulke Johnson Houghton, from whom she took over the training licence at Woodbury Stables, the family training centre at Blewbury, on the outskirts of Didcot, Oxforshire, in 2007. Fulke Johnson Houghton saddled over 1,200 winners, including the likes of Habitat and Ile De Bourbon, in a 45-year career stretching from 1961 to 2006 and has been on hand to assist his daughter since his ‘retirement’. Apparently father and daughter don’t always see eye to eye, but Eve does concede that Johnson Houghton Snr is “brilliant” in the yard.
Eve Johnson Houghton was an accomplished amateur rider, winning the prestigious Ladies’ Diamond Race at Ascot – the most valuable race of its kind – twice. She subsequently worked alongside the late John Hills, eldest son of Barry Hills, for six years as secretary and assistant trainer. During her time at South Bank, Hills saddled Wind In Her Hair to finish second in the Oaks and Broadway Flyer to finish second in the St. Leger. Similarly, her time as assistant trainer to her father coincided with that of his last really top-class performer, Tout Seul, winner of the Dewhurst Stakes and third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Eve made a bright start to her training career after taking over from her father, saddling 22 winners in her initial season, and has improved her total every season, bar one, since. In 2017, she trained 50 winners in a season for the first time.
One of the success stories of the 2017 season was Accidental Agent, a three-year-old colt bred by her mother Gaie and named after the autobiography of her grandfather Major John G. Goldsmith, who worked under the codename ‘Valentin’ for the Special Operations Executive during World War II. The Delegator colt progressed from winning an ordinary handicap on the Polytrack at Kempton in September to winning the value totescoop6 Challenge Cup at Ascot in October and finishing fourth in the hugely competitive Balmoral Handicap, back at the Berkshire track, on Champions Day, two weeks later.
Other horses who should continue to pay their way include Jake’s Hill, a four-year-old colt by Eclipse Stakes winner Mount Nelson who, according to his trainer “has a lot of scope” and “will be better with another winter under his belt”. Similarly, Eve believes that On To Victory, a four-year-old colt by 2,000 Guineas winner Rock of Gibraltar, “will be a lovely horse next year.”