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.”
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Gold Cup hero Subjectivist is out for the season after suffering a leg injury.
The Mark Johnson-trained four-year-old gave a top-drawer performance to win in brilliant fashion at Royal Ascot, by five lengths from Princess Zoe – with three-time victor Stradivarius only fourth.
He was expected to renew rivalry with the latter in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup later this month.
It is possible Subjectivist could be ready in time to defend his crown at Royal Ascot next summer but, as a potential stallion, time could be called on his racing career.
Johnston said: “He’s got an injury and it’s certainly season-ending.
“There was no secret that the horse had filling in his left foreleg in Dubai straight after the race (Dubai Gold Cup) and we got a hell of a fright from that. Visually, that was a career-ending injury.
“Within 24 hours he’d got a reasonably clean bill of health and within a month he’d got a complete clean bill of health, which was very unusual for that type of situation. Everything went perfectly well and there were no issues going into the Ascot Gold Cup or afterwards.
“But on Monday he had filling in the opposite leg. Because the left foreleg had been so atypical and he’d come back from that, we hoped it would be the same with the other leg, but it didn’t.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. The only positive we can take from it is that at least he did get the opportunity to show us what he could do.
“Those of us that were there in Dubai thought that was a phenomenal performance and at least it was confirmed in what I like to think was one of the best Ascot Gold Cups in recent days.
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.
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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.”
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).
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.”
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Sports promoter Barry Hearn described Subjectivist’s win in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot as “one of the greatest days of my life”.
Hearn, credited with revolutionising darts and snooker and heavily involved in the boxing industry as founder of Matchroom Sport, was present on course with his wife, Susan – the brainchild behind Mascalls Stud which bred the Mark Johnston-trained winner.
He tweeted: “Sometimes dreams do come true!! Subjectivist wins the Ascot Gold cup. Without doubt one of the greatest days of my life. So proud of my wife Susan who bred the horse at her Mascalls Stud. Thanks to Mark Johnston and all the connections – an unforgettable day.”
Speaking to ITV Racing, Hearn said: “It’s taken 40 years to be an overnight success!
“The amount of work that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t see, staying up late at night, getting up early in the morning, having a disaster here and there but sticking to the job, saying you love the business and love the horses I breed.
“She has the mare, Reckoning, who throws up winner after winner, Sir Ron (Priestley) runs on Saturday (in the Hardwicke), Alba Rose is coming out soon, there’s a two-year-old with Mark Johnston – I’m very proud of her.
“It’s a very tough game, but days like today make it all worthwhile.”
Susan Hearn said: “It’s normally known as Barry Hearn’s stud, but it is actually me who does all the work! This is unbelievable and I still can’t believe it.”
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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.
“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.”
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Subjectivist is still on course for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot despite giving connections a scare on Friday.
Trainer Mark Johnston revealed the second favourite for the big prize behind Stradivarius fell over on the way to the gallops but suffered only superficial damage.
“We had a scare on Friday, he fell over and skinned both knees and his hocks but just superficial grazes,” the Middleham handler told Sky Sports Racing.
“It happened on the way to the gallops. Obviously it was a big scare because it was him.
“There was no swelling and he cantered both yesterday and today, so all should be well.”
With that problem over, Johnston is now worried about the lack of a recent run for his talented stayer, who has not raced since winning the Dubai World Cup at Meydan in March.
“That is more of a concern because of the time he’s had in between, but he’d had a fair bit of time of before he went to Dubai and clearly thrived on it,” he added.
“If he can repeat that performance, then Stradivarius is going to have to pull it all out to beat him.”
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Easy Meydan winner Subjectivist is likely to head straight for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
Mark Johnston’s four-year-old backed up his Group One win in France with another profitable overseas success in last weekend’s Dubai Gold Cup – a near all-the-way success under Joe Fanning by almost six lengths.
His rivals can count themselves unlucky, however – because his initial target had been Saudi Arabia.
“He had a fantastic campaign last year – we always thought of him as a genuine St Leger horse, but that was probably his most disappointing effort through the year,” said Johnston’s son Charlie.
“We campaigned him quite aggressively last year – he ran in the Gordon, the Voltigeur, the March and then the Leger, so it was a busy summer.
“There is an element to say he’s best when he’s fresh – but he’s also just a bigger, stronger horse this year. Last year you could struggle to keep condition on him, but this year he’s taken all the work we have thrown at him.
“Plan A was Saudi, and we were annoyed he didn’t get in there – we couldn’t fathom the logic.
“I know Phil Smith framed the staying race as a handicap – and because of weight for age, it worked against him. But there were horses running that had been getting beaten in handicaps and went off 50-1, while he’d won a Group One on his last start.
“As soon as he didn’t get in, as he was half-ready in early February, Meydan was an opportunity for another big pay day – and it was a fantastic performance.”
Looking towards the summer, Subjectivist has two big aims.
Johnston added: “We’ve given him a Yorkshire Cup entry – but one of the main attractions to Dubai was that he had no penalty for his Group One, while he would have in a Sagaro, Henry II or Yorkshire Cup.
“I think Plan A will be to go straight to Ascot, because we’ve proved we can have him in the form of his life fresh. I think the two he’ll definitely go to are Ascot and Goodwood in the summer.
“There’s certainly lots to look forward to. He nearly won at Royal Ascot (King George V Stakes, last year), and Mogul only just caught him at Goodwood – both of those were over a mile-and-a-half. We always said he would get better with age.”
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Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist put up an impressive performance to win the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan.
The four-year-old, winner of the Group One Prix Royal-Oak on heavy ground when last seen at ParisLongchamp in October, demonstrated his adaptability on this much quicker surface, and put down a marker for all this summer’s top staying races.
Joe Fanning had the 5-1 shot prominent throughout as For The Top initially led the Group Two field.
Subjectivist took over to go clear in the straight and had a yawning five and three-quarter lengths to spare at the line – as outsiders Walderbe and Away He Goes stayed on best of the well-beaten rest to be second and third respectively.
Johnston confirmed he found Subjectivist’s dominant performance a joy to watch throughout.
“Always, from past the winning post first time I thought ‘this is perfect, I’m very happy, he’s going really well,” said the Middleham trainer.
“When he hit the front, I was thinking ‘well, I’m glad I’m not the trainer of one of the other horses!
“I just thought frankly, as proved to be the case … anybody who thinks they can go and catch this horse from back there and make up that sort of ground … I just thought it was absolutely perfect.
“It wasn’t as if he’d been running too free, or he’d been driven to the front. He eased to the front with five lengths to spare over the field, and it just couldn’t have been better.”
The trainer of former Ascot Gold Cup winners Double Trigger and Royal Rebel, and last year’s runner-up Nayef Road, believes Subjectivist could be lynchpin of a successful new era for his yard in the staying division.
Acknowledging huge respect for John Gosden’s three-time Ascot winner and title-holder Stradivarius, Johnston is nonetheless up for the challenge.
“You can never underestimate Stradivarius, because he’s beaten some fantastic horses – including Dee Ex Bee – and we thought in Dee Ex Bee, we had the absolute perfect Cup horse,” he said.
“Stradivarius made short work of him. But it’s not all about one horse, and we go into 2021 with this horse and Nayef Road – the nearest thing to Stradivarius last year – so it’s just very, very exciting.
“We love the Cup division. With Double Trigger and then Royal Rebel, we were always right up there with some of the best horses in the staying division.
“We’ve had a few relatively quiet years. But I just feel we are going into it (this year) with the best team in the world.
Fanning – making his first trip to Meydan – always felt in control on Subjectivist.
“He is a little bit keen – (but) he switched off nicely,” said the winning jockey.
“It was a nice even pace, and down the back I was going so well I just let him roll on a little bit because I knew he’d stay very well on this ground.
“I was very confident turning into the straight I had plenty left.
“I didn’t want the race to slow up, and I had so much horse before the straight. So I got a breather into him, then kicked, and was pretty comfortable.
“I’ve never been to Dubai before. I thought he had a big, strong chance – so I was glad to come over.”
Fanning had no doubts about Subjectivist on this quicker surface, either.
“Everyone thinks he wants soft, heavy ground – but I think he’s the type who’ll go on anything,” he said.
“So I was never worried about the ground here – I think he’s a very versatile horse.”
Johnston’s overdue Meydan victory came in a necessarily hushed atmosphere as coronavirus restrictions continue to limit attendances.
He added: “It doesn’t matter where we are in the world – this is not normal.
“Dubai World Cup night would normally be one of the biggest meetings in terms of attendances that we go to in the year.
“So this is very, very different – so sad for Dubai.”
In the year of the meeting’s 25th anniversary, it was also run following the death this week of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum – deputy ruler of Dubai and owner and breeder of many of world racing’s greats over the past 30 years.
“After Sheikh Hamdan’s death, we all wondered if it could go ahead – and we were told it would, because that’s what Sheikh Hamdan would have wanted,” said Johnston.
“All the odds were stacked against there even being a race meeting tonight – and it’s the 25th anniversary. So what better time to win?”
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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.
“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.”
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