After saddling the first two home in the Old Newton Cup last weekend, Mark Johnston is aiming to better that today with three runners in the 56th John Smith’s Cup at York.
Just like those two, Notarised and Watersmeet, his three runners in the Knavesmire feature – Fire Fighting (Paul Mulrennan), Sennockian Star (Franny Norton) and Master Of Finance (Silvestre de Sousa) – all appear handicapped right up to their best, but that has never stopped a Johnston runner from pulling a performance out of the hat.
However, despite all his success in handicaps down the years, this is a race he has never won. “They all keep meeting each other which is a shame, but when you have got horses like that there is not much else for them apart from these valuable handicaps,” said the Middleham handler.
“The cut in the ground will suit Master Of Finance and that will give him a little edge. The other two, Fire Fighting and Sennockian Star, will handle it but they are slightly quirky horses.
“Sennockian Star needs a fast pace and needs to be up there but not out in front, while Fire Fighting needs everything to fall right for him. It was great getting a one-two in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock last week and would be even better if we could get the first three home in this.”
Fresh from the biggest win of her career last weekend when Lady Tiana claimed the Lancashire Oaks, Lucy Wadham has her eyes on another big prize with Lanceur.
Bought as a prospective hurdler, he did manage a win at Huntingdon but proved when winning at Chelmsford off a mark of 90 that he was not finished on the level just yet.
Down in trip for the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot, nothing went right but back up at 10 furlongs, Wadham is hoping for a better show.
“I think he’ll be better suited to this trip,” said Wadham.
“He’s in good form but I’m a little anxious about the ground drying up too much. We’ll have to see how it is.
“He ran his race back to front at Ascot, he needs holding up but he absolutely pinged the stalls and ended up in front.
“Hopefully it goes a bit better this time.”
Hughie Morrison harbours slight doubts over whether his Royal Ascot winner Arab Dawn will be as effective over the 10-furlong trip.
The four-year-old is carrying a 5lb penalty for his success in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap just over three weeks ago, but he will be 3lb well-in as the historic race on the Knavesmire is an early-closing affair.
Arab Dawn’s first win in handicap company came over a mile and a quarter last May, but since then all his winning has been done over further so as well as contending with a career-high mark, he is arguably also not racing over his ideal distance.
“He was well-handicapped at Ascot and Richard (Hughes) gave him a smashing ride,” said Morrison.
“He’s a horse over that distance (12 furlongs) you can place where you want to. Whether coming back in trip he’ll be as good, Saturday will show. He is a horse we feel we can move around in trip, but this will prove whether we can or not, if he runs his race.
“It may be a bit sharp for him - we will find out. It was a stiff mile and a half at Ascot.
“He’s a fairly straightforward horse and being by Dalakhani, they improve with age. There should be more to come, but whether it’s this weekend, I’m not convinced because of the trip, but I think we’ve got to try it. He’s 3lb well in.”