Tag Archive for: mark johnston

Subjectivist likely to return to training

Gold Cup winner Subjectivist is likely to return to training with the aim of being prepared for a defence of his crown in June.

The Mark Johnston-trained stayer picked up a serious injury when putting up a startling display at Royal Ascot this year, meaning retirement was potentially on the cards.

But while he is still not out of the woods completely, connections have not been offered a “suitable” role at stud as of yet and hope remains he can continue his excellent career on the track.

“Subjectivist is still here at Kingsley Park and there are no immediate plans for retirement,” Johnston said on his website www.johnston.racing.

“It is well publicised that an injury came to light soon after he won this year’s Ascot Gold Cup and there is no doubt that that injury is career threatening but, in the absence of a suitable job at stud, we will make an attempt to bring him back for the Royal meeting next year.

“As the clock ticks by towards the 2022 covering season it looks likely that he will still be here in the New Year and returning to training.”

Johnston confirmed Subjectivist’s sibling Sir Ron Priestley has run his final race, however.

He added: “His three-parts brother, Sir Ron Priestley, on the other hand, will definitely be retired.

“He is also currently still with us but it is hoped that he will shortly be departing for France where he will take up stud duties.”

Group One hero The Last Lion verging on racing return

Mark Johnston is preparing Group One winner The Last Lion to return from a mammoth absence of over five years in the Betway Golden Rose Stakes at Lingfield on Saturday.

The son of Choisir won four of his 10 starts during a juvenile campaign which started with victory in the Brocklesby at Doncaster and ended with top-level success in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

The Last Lion was retired to stud after that 2016 victory over Blue Point, but returned to training earlier this year and is closing in on a remarkable comeback at Listed level this weekend.

“He’s been back since around May time,” said Johnston.

“Basically, once it was realised he was infertile, he was retired (from stud duties) and I purchased Godolphin’s half-share and the other owners basically gave him to me.

“John Brown and Megan Dennis are still in, so we decided to give it a go and see how it went.

“He was gelded and it’s taken a long time to get him fit and make sure everything was OK.

“Joe Fanning has had a couple of gallops on him in the last couple of weeks and was very happy with him, so we’ve made an entry.”

Trainer Mark Johnston
Trainer Mark Johnston (Mike Egerton/PA)

While The Last Lion covered a number of mares and produced 13 individual winners, his stallion career did not take off as hoped.

Johnston added: “I don’t think he’s had many foals right from the beginning. It hasn’t been going all that well and it’s just got gradually worse.

“Someone has asked me if we’ve had a horse come back from a stud career before and I don’t think I have and I don’t think many people will have had one after so long off.

“There’s a little bit of trepidation – you’ve got to be careful – but we think we’ve done plenty of work with him and it would be great if he can come back to anything like his former self.

“He’s worked very, very well. Joe Fanning, who was on him in the Middle Park on his last start, said he gave him a great feel, so he’s very excited about it.”

Futurity option for Newmarket victor Royal Patronage

The Vertem Futurity Trophy could be next on the agenda for Royal Patronage following his thrilling victory at Newmarket on Saturday.

A surprise winner of the Acomb Stakes at York on his previous outing, Mark Johnston’s charge looked booked for minor honours in the Group Two Royal Lodge after Coroebus swept clear inside the final two furlongs.

But in a dramatic late twist, the leader was reeled in by Royal Patronage, much to the delight of the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing team.

“Royal Patronage’s victory was sensational. It’s not often you see that happen and he’s a very, very good horse,” said Highclere’s managing director Harry Herbert.

“It’s very exciting to have a horse like that to go to war with. We’re slightly letting the dust settle, but we’ll take a close look at the Vertem Futurity, I would guess.

“If the horse is well and Mark and Charlie are happy with him, that would certainly be a spot to look very closely at.”

The Wootton Bassett colt received ante-post quotes for next year’s Derby in the aftermath of his Royal Lodge success and Herbert hopes he can develop into a realistic contender for Epsom.

Jason Hart and Royal Patronage at Newmarket
Jason Hart and Royal Patronage at Newmarket (Tim Goode/PA)

He added: “He’s certainly got that look to him. He stays well and is bred to stay, being a beautifully-bred horse from an Aga Khan family out of a Dalakhani mare.

“He’s a very exciting prospect who is getting better and better with his racing.”

Royal Patronage was one of three juveniles to carry the Highclere colours in Pattern company at Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting.

The Andrew Balding-trained Harrow finished a creditable third in the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes on Thursday, while the following afternoon George Boughey’s Cachet found only Hello You too strong in the Group Two Rockfel Stakes.

“It was a terrific run from Cachet and with her we’ll take a very close look at the Fillies’ Mile, so long as George is happy to run her,” said Herbert.

“It looks as though she’ll enjoy going further and the step up to a mile will help.

“She goes on any ground, so if it were to come up soft at Newmarket for the Fillies’ Mile, that would be fine.

“With Harrow, we’ll just take a view. He’s had a busy season and it may be that’s that for him, but Andrew and I will sit down and discuss plans at some stage.”

Patronage powers to astonishing Royal Lodge success

Royal Patronage emerged as a Derby contender as he rallied in spectacular style to win the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket.

Trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Jason Hart, the Wootton Bassett colt was a shock 25-1 winner of the Acomb Stakes at York last time out but went off a 7-2 chance in this mile affair, with Coroebus the 85-40 joint-favourite in company with Masekela.

Hart set out to make all aboard Royal Patronage as he had done on the Knavesmire, bowling along nicely until Coroebus was produced to challenge with a startling turn of foot by William Buick over two furlongs out.

Royal Patronage (right) was too strong for Coroebus
Royal Patronage (right) was too strong for Coroebus (Tim Goode/PA)

It appeared to be a matter of just how far the Godolphin runner would win by as he stretched clear, with a handful of lengths in hand passing the furlong marker.

However, Hart switched Royal Patronage from the inside rail to the middle of the track and his Highclere Racing-owned partner found a second wind meeting the rising ground, producing another burst as Coroebus seemed to run out of petrol, eventually grabbing the lead in the final stride to win by a neck.

Betfair offer 16-1 from 33s about Royal Patronage for next year’s Cazoo Derby at Epsom, while Coral make him a 20-1 shot for the 2000 Guineas and 25s for the premier Classic.

Johnston said: “The Godolphin team were standing beside me watching the race and with a furlong to go they thought they’d won and I thought they’d won.

“I was actually very happy with the run at that point as I could see he was starting to stay on away from the pack and I was thinking to next year and thinking ‘this will be one for the Derby trials early’ on.

Jason Hart celebrates on top of Royal Patronage
Jason Hart celebrates on top of Royal Patronage (Tim Goode/PA)

“Jason said he was a bit free early on, but as soon as he hit the rising ground he just found another gear.

“We had some doubts about stepping up to the mile early on as he has a lot of speed. We almost supplemented him for the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster – it literally went to the wire, deciding whether to supplement or not.

“We decided against it in the end, which we regretted after it broke up so much, but we were reasonably convinced that going further was going to be better. He certainly proved that today.”

On immediate plans, the Middleham trainer said: “I don’t know (if will run in the Vertem Futurity Trophy). I’ll speak to Harry (Herbert, of Highclere) and see what he has to say.

“He looks like a Derby horse. It’s great when you’ve got a horse who you’re thinking might stay a mile and a half, but is showing so much speed early on as well. That’s ideal.”

Hart said: “He over-raced in the first part of the race and really took off with me. But in hindsight it probably helped me.

“This is a good horse and people keep underestimating him. When he met the rising ground he found an extra gear.

“He’s just a really good horse and when you ask him he finds plenty for pressure.”

Coroebus looks to have a huge future, despite defeat
Coroebus looks to have a huge future, despite defeat (Tim Goode/PA)

There will clearly be another day for the imposing Coroebus, who looked so exciting when showing his change of gear.

Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “It’s always hard when you pass them all and then get passed again.

“He’ll have learned plenty today. We’ve been pleased with him at home and he’s a beautiful-looking horse.

“I think he’s just got a bit lonely out in front there in the end. He only had one run under his belt and got picked up by a horse who has had plenty of racing now.

“Take nothing away from the winner. He’d won an Acomb and he’s obviously a good horse.”

Staying stalwart Nayef Road makes class count at HQ

Nayef Road was rewarded for a string of fine efforts in top company when making every yard of the running in the Jockey Club Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket.

Without a win since the rearranged Sagaro Stakes at Newcastle soon after racing’s resumption last June, he had nevertheless been up against some top-class opponents.

Having finished behind Stradivarius on no less than five occasions, he relished being back in the much calmer waters of Listed company.

Second in the Gold Cup last year, Mark Johnston, who won that race this June with Subjectivist, will no doubt have taken great pleasure from the display.

Andrea Atzeni, who had ridden Nayef Road the last twice, was keen to make it a real test of stamina and began to wind it up three furlongs from home.

Eileendover was the first of the big guns to crack and it was not long before Max Vega and Roberto Escobar were also in trouble.

With a furlong to run it was just a question of how far and Nayef Road (9-2) crossed the line six lengths clear of Roberto Escobar, with Max Vega just holding off Morando for third.

Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: “This is one of those instances where you genuinely feel happy for the horse.

“He’s had two years of banging his head against the brick wall that is Stradivarius. For all of us, that gets a bit disheartening after a while.

“When we saw this race we thought it might be a nice opportunity to try to get his head back in front in slightly calmer waters and prove that he’s still got the ability that has seen him finish second in two Group Ones.

Nayef Road makes the best of his way home at Newmarket
Nayef Road makes the best of his way home at Newmarket (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s entered at Ascot (on Champions Day). We didn’t go to York because we thought when Stradivarius was there he wouldn’t go to Doncaster as well, but fair play to them – he’s kept turning up and danced every dance this year.

“It was nice to finally find a race where he wasn’t here! We’ll speak to the owner regarding plans for the autumn and winter and next year.”

He went on: “Although he finished second in a Gold Cup on soft ground, I think he’s better on top of the ground, so it will depend a bit on conditions at Ascot.

“You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place as if the ground is quick Stradivarius is the impenetrable wall and if it’s soft you get Trueshan in his best conditions.

“Nayef Road is a horse who can be competitive in those big races, and when he drops down to this sort of level he’s just a bit better than the rest of these.”

Maydanny delivers in Doonside Cup

Maydanny ran out a clear-cut winner of the Virgin Bet Doonside Cup at Ayr.

Impressive when landing the Golden Mile at Goodwood earlier in the summer, Mark Johnston’s charge had since disappointed in handicap company at York and in the Group Three Superior Mile at Haydock.

Stepping up to a mile and a quarter for the first time this season, the 9-2 chance tracked the pacesetting The Flying Ginger for much of the way before pulling clear in the hands of Joe Fanning.

Admirable veteran Euchen Glen made late headway from further back in the field, but Maydanny never looked in any real danger of being pegged back and passed the post with a length and a half in hand.

The winning handler told ITV Racing: “You never expect things, but we were very hopeful – we wouldn’t be running him here if we didn’t think he had a great chance.

“He was obviously a little bit disappointing last time, but we knew if he could run up to his best, all the conditions seemed to be right for him.

“More of the same (would probably be the plan). We’ll just take one race at at time, there’s no specific target in mind.”

Johnston and Fanning were completing a quick-fire double on the card following the success of Highland Premiere (13-2) in the opening Microtech Group EBF Nursery.

The Middleham maestro went on to make it a treble with the Richard Kingscote-ridden Annandale (9-4) in the concluding Jordan Electrics Ltd Handicap.

Staxton (right) winning the Silver Cup at Ayr
Staxton (right) winning the Silver Cup at Ayr (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Staxton clung on grimly to claim top honours in the Virgin Bet Ayr Silver Cup.

Tim Easterby’s sprinter had not managed to get his head in front since making a successful start to the campaign at Ripon in April, but had dropped to the same mark as a result.

Drawn low in stall two, the 25-1 shot was produced to challenge against the far rail by Duran Fentiman and stuck to his task admirably to get the better of a thrilling battle with Soldier’s Minute by a head.

The hat-trick seeking 9-2 favourite Blackrod was almost two lengths further behind in third.

Revich (second left) was a narrow winner
Revich (second left) was a narrow winner (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Trainer Richard Spencer and 3lb claimer Angus Villiers combined to land the Virgin Bet Handicap with 20-1 shot Revich.

Carrying the colours of Middleham Park Racing, the five-year-old stuck to his guns to see off Hong Kong Harry by half a length, with another Middleham Park runner in Marie’s Diamond close up in third.

Middleham Park’s Tim Palin said: “I think the key to Revich is a turning track and he was just getting down to a workable mark.

“He was as game as a pebble in the final furlong when he could easily have cried enough.

“Getting denied the one-two was unfortunate, but we’re very grateful for the win and Marie’s Diamond ran great as well.”

John Quinn’s Titan Rock (8-1) strode clear in the Download The Gribbens Taxi App Now Handicap.

Four-star Murphy extends championship lead

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was the toast of Goodwood with a near 105-1 four-timer on Tuesday.

Murphy is closing in on a third successive title after pulling further clear of his closest pursuer, William Buick – 126 winners to 109.

Piffle (13-2) opened Murphy’s account when following up her Windsor success with a neck verdict over Breezy Storm in the South Downs Water EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes.

Outside World (100-30), trained by Mark Johnston, gave Murphy a double when making all the running in the Farmer Butcher Chef Fillies’ Nursery Handicap.

Johnston provided Murphy with his treble on Themaxwecan (7-4 favourite) in the Royal Sussex Regiment Handicap.

Murphy brought up his four-timer with a facile triumph, by seven and a half lengths, on 2-11 favourite King Vega in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Novice Stakes.

It was a red-letter day for Johnston as well, with Toussarok (9-2), ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, giving the Middleham handler a third winner at Goodwood and Bowman (11-4) scoring at Leicester in the hands of Ben Curtis for an across-the-card four-timer.

Dancing King clings on for March glory

Dancing King made every yard of the running to provide Mark Johnston with a third successive win in the tote March Stakes at Goodwood.

Following on from the half-brothers of Sir Ron Priestley and Subjectivist winning the Group Three, Dancing King added his name to the race run in memory of John Dunlop.

Despite Joe Fanning dropping his reins close home and the fact the odds-on favourite Nagano loomed up looking sure to go by, Dancing King (100-30) just kept on pulling out more and won by a head.

Johnston told ITV Racing: “It’s our style of running to allow them to roll along so we don’t complicate things.

“This lad is in the Cesarewitch but it’s a condition of all the Kingsley House partnerships (syndicate who own Dancing King) that the horses go to the October Sales.

“It’s a shame, but they have hit the jackpot with a few cheap purchases and this looks like being another.”

Fanning said: “I actually haven’t ridden this lad for a while but he’s very straightforward and was always doing enough.

“I was going well all the way, he was running around a bit so I knew I had plenty left and when the other one came to me, he kept galloping.”

David Egan had to settle for second on Nagano but had already won on the Clive Cox-trained Aratus, who continued his rapid progression when clinging on in the tote Quadpot Starts Here Handicap.

The three-year-old finished second on his debut last September but is now unbeaten in four races since.

He broke his maiden in good style at Kempton in November and returned with a victory at Doncaster in July. A winner off a mark of 94 at Newbury, he defied a 4lb rise on this occasion.

Having gone clear inside the final furlong the veteran Escobar did close to within a neck of the 2-1 favourite but the line came too soon.

The Charlie Hills-trained Willoughby Bay (100-30) was a clear-cut winner of the tote Placepot First Bet Of The Day EBF Fillies’ Restricted Novice Stakes while General Lee (9-4) claimed the tote.co.uk Handicap for Paul and Oliver Cole.

To top a great day for James Ferguson, who won his first Group race when Mise En Scene took the Prestige Stakes earlier, he also landed the closing Access Tomorrows Placepots Early At tote.co.uk Handicap with Snowalot (11-8 favourite) ridden by Daniel Muscutt.

Royal Patronage registers shock Acomb victory

Royal Patronage, the outsider of five at 25-1, ran his rivals into the ground to take the Group Three honours in the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes at York.

The Mark Johnston-trained youngster was the most experienced horse in the five-runner field with three previous outings and he gave a thoroughly professional performance to see off better-fancied opposition in smooth style.

Jason Hart dictated affairs from the start on Royal Patronage, who only opened his account three weeks ago. He wound up the tempo in the straight and comfortably kept the rest of the field at bay.

He stayed on strongly to score by two and a quarter lengths from Imperial Fighter to give Johnston back-to-back victories in the race and a fifth in all.

Bookmakers Coral quoted Royal Patronage at 25-1 for the Qipco 2000 Guineas with Paddy Power going 20-1.

Johnston said: “While he was the most exposed, I was surprised he was the outsider but there was plenty of hype around the other runners.

“We were discussing after Epsom that this seemed the obvious place to come and we did bring him to the Dante meeting which shows what we thought of him.

“He was beaten over six first time out, ran well second time at Sandown and then showed what we always thought of him at Epsom.

“We won this with Bijou d’Inde way back when it was a conditions race. Darryll Holland rode him, jumped off and said he was a Group One horse and I think you need to be one to win the Acomb.

“He’s won a Group Three and the only way is up for the moment.

“Jason rode him last time and does ride fairly regularly for us, so was the obvious choice to ride.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go next, he’s got quotes for the Guineas but he might be more a Dante type.”

Imperial Fighter (right) had to settle for second
Imperial Fighter (right) had to settle for second (Nigel French/PA)

Andrew Balding was satisfied with the effort of runner-up Imperial Fighter.

He said: “I’m happy with that – it was a good run.

“He’ll stay further in time and he’s going to be a nice horse.”

Maydanny confirms liking for Goodwood

Maydanny notched his second win at the Qatar Goodwood Festival with a facile success in the Unibet Golden Mile.

Mark Johnston’s charge won the 10-furlong handicap on the opening day of the meeting last season. He was due to defend his crown on Tuesday, but was withdrawn on account of the testing conditions.

With the ground having dried out since, the five-year-old was an 8-1 shot to open his account for the year in this £150,000 handicap and ultimately won with something to spare.

Always travelling well in the hands of Jim Crowley, Maydanny quickened through a gap on the far rail before kicking a length and three-quarters clear of David O’Meara’s Rhoscolyn, who finished strongly to beat stablemate Escobar to the runner-up spot.

Johnston said: “It’s great, it’s particularly special with that family, anything out of Attraction.

“He’s another horse we were very hesitant about this week with the soft ground, we weren’t sure if he could handle it but he’s done it really well, he obviously likes this track.

“Attraction herself was obviously very, very unique due to her action and she was particularly a fast ground horse, but that may have been more physical than in the genes.

“The common theme among the family is that they’re very strong and powerful and muscular horses, clearly some of her attitude comes through as she’s certainly one of the toughest I ever trained.

“We make no secret of the fact that it’s a special meeting for us, I’ve always said that Goodwood and Royal Ascot, we’ll pass easier races to have a go at a race here, which we wouldn’t do otherwise.

“He’s obviously gone back and forward between top handicaps and Group races, each time he wins a big handicap like this it means he’s less likely to run in one again.

“We’ve got no specific race marked out for him, but I’m sure he’ll be back in Pattern races.”

Calling The Wind won the opening race at Goodwood on Friday
Calling The Wind won the opening race at Goodwood on Friday (Francesca Altoft/PA)

Calling The Wind provided Richard Hughes with his first Glorious Goodwood victory as a trainer when triumphant in the Unibet 3 Boosts A Day Goodwood Handicap.

Hughes was prolific at the track as a jockey, taking the Sussex Stakes twice aboard Canford Cliffs and Toronado and also claiming the Nassau Stakes in 2012 with The Fugue.

A victory at Goodwood’s headline event as a trainer has been six years in the making and it was 8-1 chance Calling The Wind who obliged in Friday’s opening race under Pat Dobbs.

“It was brilliant,” Hughes said of the one-and-three-quarter-length success.

“I actually watched it on the owner’s phone, we were stood out the front and there was no big screen. I was tempted to run in but I said ‘what will be will be’, luckily he went well all the way round.”

Calling The Wind was second in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Ascot on his last run, a performance that was his first foray into the staying ranks.

“I was confident after Ascot,” Hughes added.

“I thought if he could reproduce that, in the same conditions over two and a half miles, he’ll take all the beating.”

Asked where this victory ranked alongside his other Goodwood successes, Hughes said: “It’s probably right behind Canford Cliffs.

“Riding is easy, there’s more disappointments than winners here for sure.

“It’s so unique and the best horse doesn’t always win, tactically some jockeys can make better decisions than others, I just think it’s so exciting and it’s a beautiful setting.”

Ever Given was another winner for Danny Tudhope
Ever Given was another winner for Danny Tudhope (John Walton/PA)

Danny Tudhope made it three wins at the meeting when steering Ever Given home in the Unibet Deposit £10 Get £40 Bonus Nursery.

On the 4-1 favourite he had too many guns for top-weight Jadhlaan and Robjon.

With trainer Tom Dascombe an absentee, Tudhope said: “He’s a progressive two-year-old, who put the race to bed nicely. He’s better on this slower ground.

“It’s been a good week. One winner is always good, but to have three is a bonus.”

There was a royal winner to close the card as the Queen’s Wink Of An Eye (11-4 favourite) triumphed in the TDN Australia Handicap.

Trained by William Haggas and ridden by Ryan Moore, the three-year-old was caught in a three-way finish and eventually lunged into the lead just before crossing the line.

Haggas said: said: “Wink Of An Eye is getting better, which is amazing because last year he was hopeless. This year he has matured and doesn’t take much out of himself, which helps his progression.

“He’ll run in another handicap now. I think he’ll get a mile and a half no problem, but the Queen has another one with us that will run over that trip, so we will have to separate them.”

Qaader cheer for Johnston team

Mark Johnston broke his duck for the week when Qaader relished the step up in trip to take out the Unibet ‘15 To Go’ Kincsem Handicap at Goodwood.

The Kingsley House trainer watched the William Buick-ridden Qaader completely dominate the mile-and-a-quarter contest, coming home in isolation four lengths and a short head clear of Alfaadhel and Aerion Power.

The Night of Thunder colt had disappointed on his previous start at Newmarket, but judging from the way he dominated at the business end, he has now found a comfort zone that his trainer can exploit further.

Qaader powers clear under William Buick
Qaader powers clear under William Buick (John Walton/PA)

Johnston – who revealed the serious suspensory injury suffered by Sir Ron Priestley in the Goodwood Cup has brought to an end the talented stayer’s career – said of Qaader: “His form had been mixed and there were concerns about the ground and the trip, and a combination of the two.

“We would have liked the ground to be faster, but he’s handled it well, and he got the trip well.”

Reflecting on the first half of Goodwood week, Johnston added: “It’s been very frustrating so far, and we knew our fate over the weekend when there was so much rain about.

“We are devastated about Sir Ron Priestley who first suffered a suspensory injury in 2019. This one has damaged the other branch of the suspensory which is a lot more serious.”

Aswan and James Doyle
Aswan and James Doyle (PA)

Aswan’s plucky triumph under James Doyle in the Goodwood Racecourse Patrons Nursery revived memories of good horses Jellaby, Wethnan and Ahoonora.

Owned Shaikh Duaij Al Khalifa inherited the colours from his 80-year-old uncle Shaikh Isa Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, with the dream of having a winner at Goodwood where Ahoonora landed the Stewards’ Cup in 1978.

Trainers Simon and Ed Crisford were beaming after the 13-2 shot got home by half a length and a short head from Blue Collar Lad and Bastogne in a blanket finish.

Simon Crisford said: “We were worried about the ground and happy it dried out. It was a great ride from James who had the colt in the perfect position throughout.

“It’s great for Shaikh Duaij that he has acquired colours synonymous with top horses from back in the seventies, including Ahoonora who landed the Stewards’ Cup here and went on the be a Group-winning sprinter.”

Wilderness Girl dominated the market for the Tatler EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes and was equally authoritative in the race itself, the 7-4 favourite scoring in convincing fashion from Brazilian Beach and Silverdale in the hands of William Buick.

Her trainer Andrew Balding said: “I’m really pleased. She ran promisingly on her first start at Newmarket and is a nice filly to go on with. We weren’t worried about the ground.”

Buick then took the concluding race on the card, the World Pool Handicap, aboard Roger Teal’s Whenthedealinsdone.

Starting at 8-1, the gelding ran prominently and prevailed by a length and half over the five-furlong trip.

Sir Ron Priestley battles hard to repel Al Aasy

Sir Ron Priestley returned to winning ways when seeing off the persistent challenge of Al Aasy in the Princess of Wales’s Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket.

Franny Norton set out to make all on Mark Johnston’s five-year-old, who is a half-brother to Gold Cup-winning stablemate Subjectivist.

With two furlongs to run, Sir Ron Priestley was being ridden – but not as vigorously as Highest Ground, who dropped away.

The odds-on favourite Al Aasy, normally a very smooth traveller, came off the bridle earlier than normal but still moved up to challenge as they met the rising ground.

In typical Johnston style, Sir Ron Priestley kept on battling against the rail – but Jim Crowley had still to ask for everything on Al Aasy.

However, as the line neared it, became obvious Al Aasy was up against a very determined opponent and would have to settle for second again – just as he did in last month’s Coronation Cup at Epsom.

Sir Ron Priestley (100-30) prevailed by a neck.

Johnston was relieved to see his 2019 St Leger runner-up return to his best after two lacklustre efforts of late, at this same Group Two level, since his victory in Newmarket’s Jockey Club Stakes.

“You couldn’t have any expectations, because he has had two disappointing runs – there’s no getting away from it,” said the Middleham trainer.

“After he won on the Rowley Mile course earlier in the year, we thought he’d be going a mile and six plus – so I didn’t really expect him to be here today.

“But those two runs left us scratching our heads – we’re still scratching our heads.”

The most likely explanation remains elusive for Johnston.

He said: “The easy answer is to say it’s the ground, and he needs a fast surface, but if you don’t like the ground you don’t like it throughout the race – not just in the last furlong or two – and at York this horse travelled to the front two out like he was going to walk all over them, and he didn’t get home.

“He was second in the St Leger and had a year off, and we were dreaming of Cup races. Now, we just don’t know (trip-wise) – we’ve got a very open mind.”

Johnston, whose brilliant Royal Ascot hero Subjectivist has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with an injured right foreleg, will consider further big-race targets over a variety of distances for Sir Ron Priestley.

“We said at the start of the year the Irish St Leger would be the principal target for him,” he added.

“But he’s in the King George – and if that was to go like the Eclipse, with a small field, we wouldn’t rule it out.

“We haven’t had a chance to speak to Paul Dean (owner) yet, but there is a vague possibility of supplementing for the Goodwood Cup.”

Subjectivist and Stradivarius on track for Goodwood showdown

Subjectivist and Stradivarius are all set to do battle once more in the £500,000 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup on July 27.

Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist proved he is every bit as good as he looked in his previous wins in France and Meydan with a dominant performance in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

He foiled the bid of Stradivarius to join Yeats as a four-time Gold Cup winner, with John and Thady Gosden’s seven-year-old finishing only fourth, after what was a less than ideal passage.

“Subjectivist has had a very easy time of it since his run in the Gold Cup. He will have a gradual return back to full work, with the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup being the next target,” said Johnston.

“Looking back at the Gold Cup, it was a very exciting performance. Whichever way you look at it, whether it be the form, the time, the sectional times, the distance he won by, it all points to it being an absolutely top-drawer performance.

“In fairness, his win before that in Dubai was very good, but I suppose everybody is generally slightly sceptical of the Dubai form. But at Ascot he confirmed it by running a very similar race in terms of style. I don’t think there are any doubts about the horse now.

“It is well documented that I love the stayers, and it means a huge amount to me personally to have a horse like this. With horses who run in these big two-mile plus races, the big concern is can you keep them sound, but barring any injuries or problems, he is an extremely exciting horse to have.”

Regarding the rematch, Johnston is keen to get it on.

He said: “I think if you read my blog, you will see that I said ‘Subjectivist was bred by Susan Hearn, Barry Hearn’s wife, and if this was another sport, Barry Hearn would be promoting the rematch and we’d all be making a lot of money out of it!’. But seriously, a big clash between these two horses at Goodwood will be very good for racing.”

Also among the 27 entries are Andrew Balding’s Spanish Mission, the Joseph O’Brien-trained duo of Twilight Payment and Baron Samedi and last year’s Derby winner Serpentine, trained by Aidan O’Brien.

Quiet man Fanning celebrated by his peers after Gold Cup success

The warm reception Joe Fanning received from his fellow jockeys after he won the Gold Cup on Subjectivist at Royal Ascot spoke volumes of how much he is respected by his peers.

There was a mass exodus from the weighing room into the parade ring to greet the 50-year-old after his finest hour. Jockeys young and old, male and female, came out in force to applaud one of the quietest in their ranks.

Quiet, he may be – but at work during a race, Fanning is a fierce and well-respected competitor.

He does not shout his talents or exploits from the rooftops. He just goes about his job in a dedicated manner.

“I was surprised by the reception. They are a great bunch of lads. It was nice. It’s great to come here and win,” he said.

“To come to Royal Ascot and have any winner is nice, but to win the Gold Cup is very nice. It’s a very good race.”

Fanning did not ride Subjectivist in his first nine races, but has been aboard him for every one of his last eight.

The Dublin-born horseman has very much found the key to the new staying sensation and he took the crown in style from Stradivarius, who endured a nightmare passage in his bid to join Yeats as a four-time winner.

“He’s a horse that used to be a little bit keen, it’s best not to complicate things with him. If there’s no pace stride on with him, if there is pace just let him settle wherever he wants,” said Fanning.

“I always felt if the race collapsed in front, I’d let him stride on and I wouldn’t be clever on him.”

The horse had not run since winning the Dubai Gold Cup in March – but Fanning had not forgotten how impressive he was that day and employed similar tactics.

“In Dubai, the race collapsed and I took it up,” he explained.

“The plan was if he wanted to roll on, I’d let him roll on.”

Joe Fanning was presented with his trophy by the Princess Royal
Joe Fanning was presented with his trophy by the Princess Royal (Steven Paston/PA)

Though he was well clear in the straight, Fanning – who was presented with his trophy by the Princess Royal – did not take victory for granted.

“Even in the final furlong I was cautious something might come and challenge,” he said.

“There were some good horses in there, but I thought it would take a good one to come by me because I filled him up before the straight. I had plenty of horse under me and it took me a long time to pull him up.

“I was confident, but cautious as well.”

As for his enduring 30-year relationship with Mark Johnston and his Kingsley House stables in Middleham, Fanning said: “He’s a great man to ride for and Charlie (Johnston, son) is there now and the staff have been there years. It’s a great team. I’ve been there a lot of years now.

“I think I had a couple of winners for Mark in 1991 and went full-time in 1995.

“It’s great for the yard and Dr Jim (Walker, owner), who has been a brilliant owner with us for years.”

It was a first Gold Cup for Fanning, but a fourth for Johnston, after Double Trigger (in 1995) and two with Royal Rebel (2001 and 2002).

A big thumbs up from Joe Fanning
A big thumbs up from Joe Fanning (Steven Paston/PA)

Johnston praised Fanning for the ride he gave the horse.

“I was happy throughout,” he said. “We never tell to jockey to lead. It’s about going the pace that suits our horse and Joe is the master at it and when he sat in second and relaxed with the horse giving a beautiful lead in front it was perfect.

“With half a mile to go he was entering new territory, but you could see he hadn’t asked the horse for any effort yet. He gave him a beautiful ride round.

“Everybody talks about Steve Cauthen as a great front-running jockey, and I always put Jason Weaver up in the same sort of league, although he wasn’t around for so long, but I don’t think there’s anybody better than Joe Fanning. He is absolutely perfect at setting the pace.

“People kept saying is he going to lead today, is he not going to lead today? However many thousands of runners Joe’s had for us, we never tell him where he’s got to be in the field, and it was just a perfect pace all the way around.”

Sublime Subjectivist rules for Johnston and Fanning in Gold Cup

Subjectivist provided Mark Johnston with a fourth Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, as Stradivarius – chasing a fourth win of his own – met trouble in running and could only finish fourth.

Joe Fanning sat second throughout as Amhran Na Bhfiann set steady fractions at the head of affairs, while Frankie Dettori on Stradivarius was happy to let the race unfold in front of him.

Fanning kicked clear with over two furlongs to run, just before the field turned into the straight, and as the runners bunched up Dettori found a wall of horses blocking his path on the favourite.

Subjectivist – so impressive in the Dubai Gold Cup last time out and a Group One winner in France before that – took three lengths out of the field and was never likely to be found out for a lack of stamina.

As he kicked clear Amhran Na Bhfiann was weakening rapidly – right into Dettori’s path – and all of a sudden Stradivarius was up against it.

Tony Mullins’ mare Princess Zoe came out of the pack to chase Subjectivist and although Dettori tried valiantly to weave his way through, he found himself with too much to do.

Subjectivist (13-2) had five lengths to spare over Princess Zoe, with Spanish Mission a further half-length back in third, just ahead of the 5-6 market leader.

Johnston had won the race previously with Double Trigger in 1995 and Royal Rebel in 2001 and 2002, and had been second in numerous big races to Stradivarius with Dee Ex Bee and Nayef Road.

The Middleham handler said: “He was on the up last winter, he won the Group One in France on heavy ground which made people think he wanted heavy ground.

“When he went to Dubai and won on fast ground, he put up the performance of his life, so I knew coming here – but I couldn’t be confident – that if he could reproduce that he would take an awful lot of beating.

Celebration time for the Subjectivist team
Celebration time for the Subjectivist team (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Someone asked me earlier if he would lead, but we never tell the jockeys what to do, we always go a pace to suit our horse and when he’s sitting second like today, in a nice rhythm, I thought it was perfect.

“With half a mile to go we were in unknown territory, but Joe hadn’t asked for an effort and we knew from Dubai how he can finish off.”

He added: “The preparation wasn’t smooth, 45 minutes after his race in Dubai he was stood in a stable on one leg and we thought it was really serious and then last week he fell over in Middleham, scraping his knees and the only positive I could take was that Attraction did the same before winning the Queen Mary!

“I think we’ll look at the Goodwood Cup. We’ll have an eye on the winter in Dubai and Saudi given the money on offer. The number one thing, I think, will be to work back from this next year.”

Weighing-room veteran Fanning was afforded a tremendous reception by racegoers and his fellow riders on his return to the winner’s enclosure.

He said: “He’s a very straightforward horse, very uncomplicated, and he did all the hard work.

“I just let horses find their own comfort zone. He can be a little keen, but with every race he’s getting more relaxed. I always say to Mark it’s better off letting him jump and find his own rhythm.

“It was a steady pace, but he relaxed which helped. Six (furlongs) out I started to push a little and I was never going to take him back.

“It was nice to see the lads come out of the weighing room to welcome me in, it’s nice to come here and win a big race.

“Having the crowd back is great.”

Of the immediate Stradivarius reaction, John Gosden said: “It didn’t go to plan.

“I thought the winner was most impressive, but we were a long way back, had the filly beside us and couldn’t get out.

“We were just caught too far back. Frankie couldn’t get out when he wanted to. You need these races to go right, it didn’t exactly go to plan in running, but full marks to the winner, I thought he was mightily impressive.”

Dettori said: “I ran into a pocket turning for home. When you get stopped in a two-and-half-mile race, you never get going again. The winner’s a good winner, but I’d love to have had another shot at it.”

Princess Zoe ran a huge race on ground that would have been quick enough for her, leaving Mullins rightly proud of her effort.

He said: “Everything will revolve around the Prix du Cadran, with whatever presents itself beforehand.

“I think we’ve been beaten by a great champion, and she’s run the race of her life.

“The owners have expressed a view to consider the Cheltenham Festival. She’s jumped a few on the q.t, and seems to enjoy it, but it’s whether her legs would stand it and it’s just a thought.”

Her rider Joey Sheridan said: “I’m over the moon for all the connections and she’s shown the people who doubted her just how good she is.

“We would never have beaten the winner, but on easier ground would have been closer.”

Andrew Balding was also thrilled with Spanish Mission, saying: “We’re thrilled with his run and might look at the Goodwood Cup.”

Jockey William Buick added: “It was a great run, because that trip stretches him. He gave me a great ride.”