Living Legend rallied in the dying strides to deny favourite Tyrrhenian Sea in the Betway Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships Conditions Stakes at Newcastle.
All eyes were on Roger Varian’s 10-11 market leader after he won each of his first three starts on the all-weather before coming home a luckless fourth last time out when stepped up to 10 furlongs.
Kept at that trip for this richly-endowed contest, Tyrrhenian Sea was settled in fourth by Andrea Atzeni as Joe Fanning set just a steady pace up front on Living Legend (7-1)
It looked as though it was just a matter of when Atzeni gave the signal at Tyrrhenian Sea travelled powerfully into the straight, just as Fanning started to get to work on the long-time leader.
Tyrrhenian Sea duly took it up inside the final two furlongs, eventually moving a length clear inside the distance – but his stride began to shorten as Living Legend dug deep, eventually coming home half a length to the good.
Living Legend had some decent form in his younger days but Johnston explained a long-term injury had seen him sidelined for well over two years.
He said: “He had a bowed tendon and had to have two years off. They say they’re never the same again, but obviously time is the crucial thing and we gave him plenty of it – he was off for 841 days.
“The owners (Barbara and Alick Richmond) gave him to us and he came back sound, so we brought him back and raced him in our name. Then he won a race so we gave him back to the owners.
“I don’t know where we’ll go from here. We’ll take it one race at a time and we have no specific plan.
“Joe always used to say this horse is better at a mile and a quarter with a good pace, but he’s come in today and said ‘you could run him at any trip’.
“Joe said he wasn’t doing a stroke in front. He said he saw the other come past him and thought ‘I haven’t even started yet’!
“I have always thought a mile and a quarter is his best trip.”