Living Legend inflicted a surprise defeat on Breeders’ Cup hero Yibir in the Betfair Exchange Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket.
Yibir enjoyed a fantastic campaign in 2021, with success in the Great Voltigeur at York proving a springboard to international honours as he won the Jockey Club Derby at Belmont and the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar.
Following a narrow reverse in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, Charlie Appleby’s charge appeared to face a relatively straightforward task on his return to Britain – and was priced up accordingly at 1-4.
But while Yibir travelled powerfully in midfield for much of the way, it was clear racing inside the final two furlongs that he was struggling to bridge the gap and he had to make do with the runner-up spot.
Mark Johnston, who now trains in partnership with son Charlie, had saddled the last two winners of the Group Two contest in Communique and Sir Ron Priestley, and Living Legend was an 11-1 shot to make it a hat-trick on the Rowley Mile.
Fresh from winning the Easter Classic on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Newcastle a fortnight ago, the six-year-old proved himself just as effective back on turf as he found plenty for Joe Fanning to keep the market leader at bay by a length and three-quarters.
Barbara Richmond, who owns Living Legend with her husband Alick, said: “This horse is just staggeringly good. We were going to put him in the Huxley Stakes next week at Chester, but we had a long conversation between Mark and Charlie and Joe and ourselves and actually it was Alick who said let’s run here.
“We had a big horse to beat here, he’s a very good horse is Yibir, but we have a good horse as well and we’re absolutely over the moon as it’s our first Group win.”
Johnston senior added: “We never run away from one horse. As normal I didn’t give any instructions to the jockey, but Barbara gave him a long talking to! She told him ‘we’re not here for a laugh, we’re here to win’ and she was right. I might take her to every race now!
“Barbara says we’re going to supplement him for the Coronation Cup (at Epsom). She was looking last night at the cost of supplementing him for Epsom and said if he won this that’s what she’d do. So you know, if that’s what she wants that’s what we’ll do.
“We always thought he was a seriously good horse, but he got a very bad injury – I think he had over two seasons off and there looked to be no future for him at all, we couldn’t even give him away as a riding horse.
“I said to Barbara ‘we’re not taking any horse on a no-racing agreement; we’re only taking him on the long odds chance he can come back to the track’.
“So we took him on and turned him out in the field, gave him two years off and then brought him back and he won at Pontefract and so we said to Barbara ‘do you want him back?’. And the rest is history.”