Mark Johnston Stable Tour
by Tony Elves
Mark Jonhston’s runners at the Royal Meeting are always worthy of more than a second glance as it a stage at which his team have performed with excellence over the years since Double Trigger gave him his first Ascot Gold Cup winner in 1995. He now has 39 Royal Ascot winners to his name.
Johnston was champion trainer at the meeting in 2003 and 2004 and very rarely leaves without at least one winner under his belt. Last year Oriental Fox (Queen Alexandra Stakes) and Buratino (Coventry Stakes) triumphed for the Kingsley Park team and they are just two of another strong pack raring to go this week.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, kindly guided attheraces.com through their hopes for the five days of the big meeting.
Winner of four of his 10 starts. Gained his last and most prestigious success in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot 12 months ago when beating Air Force Blue by two lengths. Finished ninth of 14 to Galileo Gold in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (1m) at the end of April and fourth, beaten four and a quarter lengths, to Quiet Reflection in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock (6f) on his latest start at the end of May.
“He will go for the Commonwealth Cup. He was disappointing in the 2000 Guineas but I think he put that behind him to a degree at Haydock. That run made it clear to us that, for the time being at least, he is a sprinter and not a miler. I thought they went quite quick at Haydock and he travelled as strongly as anything a furlong and a half out. The winner showed a better turn of foot than him but we were carrying a penalty that day and his career best performance last year was over six furlongs at Ascot. If he can bounce back to that level he should be competitive.”
Winner of one of her three starts. Scored by two and a quarter lengths from Romantic View at Ascot (5f) in May. Had previously been beaten a head at Wolverhampton (6f) in April by Thora Barber and placed third to Fiery Character at Newmarket earlier that month.
“She got beat over six furlongs at Wolverhampton and that was our fault running her over the wrong trip. We dropped her back to five at Ascot and she absolutely bolted up in what looked a warm fillies’ race. She is a course and distance winner with tons and tons of speed and the Queen Mary will obviously be a race with American fillies in it but she will run well.”
Winner of two of her nine starts. Creditable fourth, beaten three and a quarter lengths, to Somehow in the Listed Cheshire Oaks at Chester (1m 2 1/2f) in May but disappointed on her subsequent outing in a similar event at Goodwood (1m 2f) later in May when only eighth of nine to Skiffle.
“She might run in the Ribblesdale. She ran well at Chester in the Cheshire Oaks where she missed the break and sat last but she actually finished nicely to finish fourth. She ran badly at Goodwood but you have to put a line through that run. Realistically, she would have a lot to find in the Ribblesdale but we looked at the entries and a lot of the fillies have just recently run in the Oaks and would be quite unlikely to reappear. It has the potential to break up into a small field so we thought we would save her for this and have a tilt at it.”
Winner of nine of his 57 starts. Last win at Kempton (1m 4f) in November when beating Hamelin two and a quarter lengths. Finished third, beaten three quarter of a length, to Mahsoob in the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot 12 months ago.
“He could be one of three we have in the Wolferton and he will be making his third consecutive appearance at the Royal Meeting. He has run a couple of disappointing races at Sandown and Epsom the last twice but he hasn’t really had his conditions. The handicapper has been quite favourable to him and dropped him down to 104 which is the lowest he’s been for quite a while. He finished third in the race last year off 110 and if the ground was to dry out and, he has a fast pace to run at, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bounce back.”
Winner of three of her nine starts. Solid efforts in defeat both starts this term finishing fourth, beaten four and a quarter lengths, to Minding in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket (1m) at the beginning of May and when runner-up, beaten four lengths, to So Mi Dar in the Musidora Stakes at York (1m 2 1/2f) later that month.
“Fireglow will go for the Coronation Stakes. She ran a stormer to finish just behind the three Coolmore Fillies in the 1000 Guineas and she took a real leap forward from what she had shown last year. That wasn’t a surprise to us at all as she had been working really well during the Winter and we wouldn’t have run her in the Guineas if we thought she couldn’t do herself justice. She ran in the Musidora at York after that and that was just a little experiment to find out just in case she proved to be an Oaks filly and we drew the conclusion that she wasn’t. She still ran with a lot of credit to finish in front of Harlequeen who went onto finish third in the Oaks and was only beaten by So Mi Dar who is probably one of the best middle distance fillies around. She worked last week and Joe (Fanning) couldn’t believe the transformation in her. She is just a bigger and strong filly than last year and she looks fantastic. She is one our more lively outsiders.”
Winner of his only start at Haydock (7f) last Friday when beating Arc Royal a length and three quarters.
“We ran him in the first seven furlong race of the year at Haydock last Friday and he ran out a convincing winner. He is the only Frankel we have got and he looks a very nice prospect who looks well worth his place in the Chesham Stakes.”
Winner of her only start at Ripon (5f) in May beating Who Told Jo Jo two lengths.
“She is a Kodiac filly we like a lot and she could run in the Queen Mary. She won first time out at Ripon and it wouldn’t have been the deepest race but she was very impressive that day. She is actually going through the Sales ring in London on the Monday before the meeting and will be the first horse we have sent through there. She is a filly with a good pedigree so also has plenty of residual value but she’s also got plenty of ability and we wouldn’t be entering her in the Queen Mary if we didn’t think she was capable of running a big race.”
Winner of her only start to date beating Sea Front two lengths at Newmarket (6f) in May.
“She won first time out at Newmarket and was quite impressive that day. Richard Kingscote rode her that day and didn’t have to give her a hard ride but once she hit the rising ground she pulled clear quite comfortably. Any filly that wins at Newmarket maiden at that time of the year and wins it well is automatically in line for Ascot and I would say she is an unknown quantity to don’t really know about but she deserves her place in the Albany Stakes. You never know but you hope she might be good enough to win it.”
Winner of three of his 14 starts. Returned to winning form at Epsom (7f) on Derby Day when beating Stamp Hill half a length and another solid effort at Sandown (1m) on Saturday when third, beaten two and a half lengths to Mutamakkin.
“We have a handful of entries for the Britannia Handicap but he would be one of two to concentrate on. It was seven furlongs he ran over at Epsom but Franny (Norton) got off him and said he thought he would probably be better over a mile. He ran well over that trip at Sandown on Saturday and he is in good form. He’s a beautiful looking horse and can be a bit of a hot head at times but he was perfectly calm at Epsom. He is one of just a few of our horse who likes cut in the ground and in the event it stays on the easy side it would suit him.”
Winner of one of his 3 starts. Had an easy task when beating Heir of Excitement four lengths at Ayr (6f) this month and has previously finished third, beaten four and three quarter lengths, to Broken Stones at York (6f) in May and third, beaten a length and quarter by Admiralty Way on his debut over that course and distance earlier in the month.
“He won very well at Ayr last week and on pedigree should be a seven furlong colt. He will really need to settle, at Ayr and at York the time before he was a bit keen.”
MASTER OF FINANCE
Winner of four of his 34 starts. Scored by a length from Invictus when wining a ten-furlong handicap at Pontefract (1m 2f) in April for the second year running and best effort since when runner-up, beaten a length and a half, to stablemate Revolutionist at Newmarket (1m 2f) in May.
“He ran well behind Revolutionist at Newmarket then put in a stinker at Epsom and has been a bit in and out. If he was to put his best foot forward he would be a lively outsider for the Wolferton.”
Winner of four of his 18 starts. Successful on the AW at Lingfield (1m) in March and followed up in a listed race at Wolverhampton (7f) later that month when beating Sovereign Debt a nose Unplaced in the Victoria Cup at Ascot on his latest outing.
“Mister Universe could run for us in the Royal Hunt Cup. He has run some good races at Ascot and wasn’t beaten too far in the Jersey Stakes last year. He had a good Spring winning a couple of times on the AW and we gave him a bit of a break to wait for Summer fast ground.”
Winner of seven of his 34 starts. Last victory at Chelmsford (2m) in March when beating John Reel two lengths. Creditable effort at Goodwood (1m 6f) on latest start in May when third, beaten a length and a quarter, to Kinema.
“He will go for the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes and ran well at Goodwood about three weeks ago. He may be a bit better at a mile and six than a mile and a half but still has some more than capable form at the shorter trip. He is another who won’t disgrace himself.”
Winner of four of his 38 starts. Took the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot (2m 5 1/2f) by seven lengths from Taws last year and also beaten only a short head by Grumeti in the Cesarwitch Handicap at Newmarket (2m 2f) last October. Creditable reappearance effort over a mile and a half at Ascot in May when fourth, beaten five lengths, to Elite Army.
“Our last runner of the meeting and, hopefully, he will do what he did last year and win the Queen Alexandra Stakes. He bolted up last year and it has been his target since the start of the season. He has had one run at Ascot about a month ago over a mile and a half which would have been far too sharp for him but this supreme test bring the best out of him. I saw him in his box last week and he looks a million dollars. He is probably one of our best hopes of the meeting.”
Winner of six of his 12 starts. Returned to wining form at Newmarket (1m 2f) in May when beating Master of Finance a length and a half and followed up with a length and a quarter victory from Central Square in the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar (1m 2f) later that month.
“He has won his last two races and is a cracking big horse. He won at Newmarket last month and then won the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar and won it quite comfortably. He is up to a mark of 105 now which is a career high mark but for a four-year-old he is still quite lightly raced and it only just recently that he has been stepped up to a mile and a quarter from a mile. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he improved still further and Ascot should be perfect for him. He should have a big chance in the Wolferton.
Winner of one of his 3 starts. Made it third time lucky when slamming Tawny Port seven lengths at Redcar (6f) in May.
“He has improved a lot with every run and bolted up by seven lengths at Redcar on his latest start. He would need to take another step forward to be in the frame in the Coventry but that’s not impossible.”
SEA OF SNOW
Winner of two of her 3 starts. Scored twice at Windsor (5f) in May beating Tiggaliscious a neck and following up with a half-length defeat of the heavily odds-on Legendary Lunch. That form was reversed in the Listed Woodcote Stakes at Epsom (6f) in June where Legendary Lunch scored by two lengths.
“Having won twice over five she looked like she needed every inch of the six furlongs at Epsom and the winner goes to Royal Ascot. She looked like she was going to drop away a furlong and a half out but then she got her second wind and kept on well. I think the Albany is the race for her rather than the Queen Mary and, once again, there will be some fillies with unbeaten records but she is very tough and a real pocket rocket with a great attitude. She is the short of filly who know won’t disgrace she herself and she should be in the shake up.”
SOLDIER IN ACTION
Winner of two of his nine starts. Made a winning reappearance at Doncaster (1m 2 1/2f) in April when beating Juste Pour Nous two and a half lengths and best subsequent effort when runner-up, beaten only a length and a quarter, to Red Verdon at Chester (1m 4 1/2f) in May.
“I thought he ran well for a long way on his latest start at Epsom and the last twice he has run over a mile and a quarter and it has probably been a bit sharp for him. He was only beaten a length and a quarter over an extended mile and a half at Chester giving weight to Red Verdon who was supplemented for the Derby and that horse ran well at Epsom. We are hoping back up to a mile and a half in the King George V Handicap that he can run well. He may have an entry in the Queen’s Vase as well as he is a horse who will stay very well but at the moment the owners are leaning more to the handicap than the Queen’s Vase.”
THE LAST LION
Winner of one of his three starts. Impressive length and three quarter victor of the Brocklesby at Doncaster (5f) in April. Subsequently placed third by the stewards when beaten half a length by Create A Dream at Ascot (5f) in April and runner-up, beaten a length and a quarter, to Prince of Lir at Beverley (5f) in May.
“The plan at the moment is to run The Last Lion in the Norfolk Stakes. Obviously he was very impressive when winning the Brocklesby and he was second past the post in this next two races but he was giving away 5lb and 7lb and back off level weights he is entitled to go for the Norfolk. He is a very good horse on quick ground but he might just be a very, very good horse on softer ground.”
Winner of two of his six starts. Returned to winning form with a length victory from Peril at Newcastle (7f) in May and beaten only two and three quarter lengths when 7th of 14 to Oh This Is Us at Goodwood (7f) later that month.
“Along with King’s Pavilion, he could be our other horse to run in the Britannia Handicap. He finished third in a decent handicap at Ascot the same night that Camargue won and then he won quite a competitive race against good horses at the first meeting on the AW at Newcastle. He has shown some good form at Ascot and is still quite lightly raced and horse we have always liked.”
Winner of six of his 24 starts. Returned to winning form when beating Political Policy half a length at Dundalk (1m 2 1/2f) in March and best effort since on his latest outing at Newmarket (1m 4f) in May when beaten only three quarters of a length by John Reel. Close fifth to Arab Dawn in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap 12 months ago.
“He is one of our old favourites who will probably run in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap again. He ran well in the race last year and he ran a good solid race at Newmarket three weeks ago. He is a real favourite in the yard and has been with us a long time now. He is a great horse to have and we will go to every big meeting with him this Summer.”
Winner of both of his starts. Ready two length-winner from Repton on his debut at Goodwood (6f) at the beginning of May and followed up in similar style in a conditions event at Pontefract later that month when beating Wedding Dress four and a half lengths.
“Yalta has been very, very impressive in his two starts and he is a horse we have always really liked. Even back in March he was showing us a lot and was one of our best early two-year-olds then he just had a little hold up which is why he didn’t appear until later on. Obviously, he won at Goodwood very easily then we brought him back out quickly at Pontefract just because we wanted to get more experience into him before a tough race like the Coventry. He didn’t really learn a lot more at Pontefract as he never truly came off the bridle and we have got nowhere near the bottom of him and we don’t know how good he is. He has a slightly different profile to Buratino who won the Coventry for us last year as he had been beaten a few times but was battle-hardened and streetwise whereas this fella is all class. The Coventry is one of the hardest races of the week to win but he’s very talented and hopefully he will go close.”