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Johnston team mulling Riyadh date for Mildenberger

Mildenberger could have big assignments in Saudi Arabia and Lingfield following his victory at Wolverhampton.

The Mark Johnston-trained stayer booked his place in the Betway Marathon Championship on All-Weather Finals Day on Good Friday in a fast-track qualifier on Monday.

Before that, the six-year-old could pay a visit to the Middle East for the Long Distance Turf Handicap at Riyadh next month.

“He’ll definitely go to Lingfield on Finals Day and he’s in at Saudi next month,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“I’ll have to clarify how their system works out there as to whether he’ll get a penalty for his win, because at the moment he’s not guaranteed a run. Were they to pump him up the weights slightly, that might get him in.

“Were he to get a run, he could quite possibly go to Saudi. That’s about six weeks before the all-weather finals, so it won’t have any bearing on him going there.”

Prix Royal-Oak winner Subjectivist, the yard’s other entry in the one-mile-seven furlong handicap, has yet to secure a place, much to Johnston’s surprise.

“Subjectivist is in the same race at Saudi. I was a bit perplexed when I saw the entries that our 111-rated last time out Group One winner isn’t guaranteed a run and there are some pretty out of form horses above him in the weights,” he said.

Subjectivist (right) has an entry in Saudi Arabia
Subjectivist (right) has an entry in Saudi Arabia (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s going to need a couple of horses to come out to make sure he gets a run, so we will have to see how that transpires over the next couple of weeks, but he is back in work and we’ve got half an eye on that should he get in.”

Johnston revealed Leopardo is in Dubai and likely to run at Meydan next week. The three-year-old colt has an entry in the Saudi Derby.

“He is out in Dubai and he’ll probably run in the Al Bastakiya Trial next Thursday,” he said.

“He does have an entry in the Saudi Derby, but again he’s not guaranteed a run.”

Subjectivist seals Group One-winning weekend for Mark Johnston

Subjectivist put up a fine front-running performance to land the Prix Royal-Oak (French St Leger) at ParisLongchamp and complete a memorable weekend for the Mark Johnston stable.

The victory was the second leg of a Group One double for the Middleham yard after the success of Gear Up in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud 24 hours earlier.

Seventh in the St Leger at Doncaster on his previous start, Subjectivist showed staying was his game when making all the running over just short of two miles in the hands of Joe Fanning.

The son of Teofilo had to dig deep to keep his rivals at bay and was not helped by hanging to the left in the straight, with it later transpiring a front shoe had come loose. It failed to stop him, however, as he kept on stoutly to beat Valia by two lengths.

Holdthasigreen, the winner in 2018, took the third spot he also occupied last year, while Tony Mullins’ Irish raider Princess Zoe was fourth, never really looking like repeating her victory in the Prix du Cadran of three weeks earlier.

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“It was absolutely brilliant and I’m over the moon for everybody involved,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“Plan A had been to go to Ascot for the champions stayers’ (Long Distance Cup), but when we saw Stradivarius and a few others were declared we thought we’d reroute to France – the added bonus being it’s a Group One. We felt it was going to be a weaker race and it proved to be the right decision.

“The lad who led him up said he was quite fresh in the paddock and Joe said he was quite keen on the way down to the start. I think he benefited from being that bit fresher.

“Having a slightly longer break was good for the horse and also the ground is a real positive for him and a real stamina test over this trip has helped as well.”

He added: “From the middle part of this year we were thinking he’s going to be a Cup horse for next year and hopefully we could have his big brother Sir Ron Priestley back aiming for the same kind of races. That would be nice problem, and not forgetting Nayef Road as well.”

Subjectivist was quoted at 20-1 for the Ascot Gold Cup with Paddy Power.

Johnston pointed towards the Derby at Epsom as Gear Up’s main objective in 2021.

“This was a bit of a reroute. After he won the Acomb, the plan was probably to go for the Royal Lodge and then the Vertem Futurity.

“Although we thought we had a genuine excuse in the Royal Lodge, with the way the race had been run and it wasn’t a true test of stamina, it slightly dented our confidence.

“As a result we thought we’d go for the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, which was guaranteed to be more of a test of stamina and a slightly weaker race than Doncaster, although when (Dewhurst runner-up) Wembley got withdrawn (at Doncaster) I was thinking maybe we should be there rather than Paris, but thankfully it all worked out great.

“Gear Up was one of six yearlings we bought for the Teme Valley syndicate, who wanted to buy a horse to go and win the Derby. We’ve got a Group One-winning two-year-old now and it looks like the Derby is going to be his principal target for the first half of the year.

“When you’ve won a Group One at two in many ways the options are few and far between in the first half of the year.

“There’s a lot of water to run under the bridge between now and then, but the obvious plan for him next year would be the Dante, then the Derby.”

German trip may beckon for Elarqam

Elarqam could be given the chance to claim an elusive first Group One success in next month’s Grosser Preis Von Bayern in Munich.

In what has been a largely frustrating campaign for the Mark Johnston-trained son of Frankel, connections are now considering supplementing him for the mile-and-a-half prize on November 8.

After failing to score in his first three starts this season, Elarqam took full advantage of a return to Group Three company last time out to open his account for the year in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup at Newbury.

Johnston’s son and assistant Charlie said: “It’s frustrating, because in a normal year we would have gone to North America for either the Canadian International or Northern Dancer.

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“A Group One is what is missing from his CV, and we thought those are the ideal places to have gone to try and get it.  As it is, he may now run in the Grosser Preis von Bayern – which is two weeks on Sunday.

“He is still in full work but he would need to be supplemented, so we would need to be 100 per cent happy with him for the next 10 days and for (owner) Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and his team to be happy.”

Nayef Road will be campaigned to try to go one better in next year’s Ascot Gold Cup, after a decision was made to draw stumps for this season with the Galileo colt.

Johnston added: “Nayef Road is finished for the year now. It has been frustrating in some ways that he has picked up the baton from Dee Ex Bee and banged his head against the Stradivarius wall.

“In hindsight, maybe we should have saved him for Ascot on Champions Day rather than run in the Lonsdale, but at the time we thought that looked a good opportunity.

“After York we thought he had done enough for the year, so we will look to have him back next year to have a go at the Ascot Gold Cup again.”

Sir Ron Priestley will be given the chance to try and become a potential contender for the Ascot Gold Cup (Martin Rickett/PA Images)
Sir Ron Priestley will be given the chance to try and become a potential contender for the Ascot Gold Cup (Martin Rickett/PA Images)

Next season’s Ascot Gold Cup could be a target too for 2019 St Leger runner-up Sir Ron Priestley, who has missed the current campaign through injury after a deal to race in Australia fell through earlier this year.

Johnston added: “There were offers for him to go to Australia earlier this year. He passed the vets to go in February/March time, and that deal fell through.

“He has had two separate setbacks this year, one in the spring and then a completely unrelated one about a month ago – which has written this year off.

“The plan will be to bring him back as a five-year-old and try to make him into a Gold Cup horse.”