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Sir Ron Priestley scores on comeback

Mark Johnston’s 2019 St Leger runner-up Sir Ron Priestley defied a lengthy absence to make a winning return in the MansionBet Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham.

Having made giant strides as a three-year-old, which culminated in his second to Logician at Doncaster, Sir Ron Priestley was having his first run for 571 days.

Originally he was to be sold to Australia. But that deal fell through, and he then picked up two separate injuries which ruled him out of the whole of last summer.

Bounced into an early advantage for Franny Norton, Sir Ron Priestley kept on picking up the pace all the way down the straight – with favourite Ocean Wind moving up menacingly.

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However, just as so many that hail from the Middleham yard do, the 9-4 shot kept on finding for pressure – and with half-a-furlong to run, he began to pull away once more, winning the Listed contest by a length-and-a-half.

While his father completes the last few days of quarantine – having been on hand to witness Subjectivist, another smart stayer, win in Dubai last month – assistant trainer Charlie Johnston is holding the fort.

He said: “That was everything we could have asked for and more really.

“We were very happy with him at home. Franny had been to sit on him and said he felt as good as ever – but when they come back from that sort of lay-off, there is trepidation.

“He was very heavy compared to where he was 18 months ago, but he’s just a better horse now.

“We’re over the moon with that, and it’s got us dreaming about the summer ahead.”

There was a time the Johnstons dominated staying events with a pair of brothers in Double Trigger and Double Eclipse – and Sir Ron Priestley is a half-brother to Subjectivist.

“With Subjectivist, we are pretty certain we’re going down the Ascot and Goodwood route – but I think this lad could be more versatile in terms of trip,” Johnston told Racing TV.

“We made an entry this week for the Jockey Club Stakes over a mile-and-a-half.

“Nayef Road (last year’s Gold Cup runner-up) will try and defend his crown in the Sagaro, but he’s got to follow up two horses who have put up fantastic performances in the last fortnight.

“It’s a great hand to have in this division, for sure.”

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.”