The Middleham maestro has trained more than 100 winners for each of the last 24 years yet this had been one of his more challenging months.
Stable star Permian’s tragic death in America was followed by top prospect Dee Ex Bee’s below-par run at York on Wednesday before Threading rewarded the trainer’s faith by winning the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes on Knavesmire.
Though Ladies Day will be remembered by many for horse of the year Enable’s anticipated win in the Yorkshire Oaks, Johnston’s broad smile spoke volumes.
York has not always favoured Yorkshire racing’s greatest accumulator of winners and Threading’s victory under James Doyle drew comparisons with Johnston’s 1000 Guineas heroine Attraction.
The win justified the decision to supplement the recent Goodwood winner at a cost of £15,000 for the Group Two fillies race over six furlongs.
“We wouldn’t have supplemented her if we thought she wasn’t good enough,” said the canny Scots-born trainer whose equally promising Cardsharp lines up in tomorrow’s Gimcrack Stakes.
“It was only six days ago we decided to take the plunge, and thank goodness we did.
“I could see all the way she was travelling well and I could see she was the only one who really had the leader in her sights. She’s a lovely, straightforward horse and has done nothing but please us from day one. She pulled away at the finish and that bodes well for the future.
“She won on soft at Goodwood and she’s won on soft again, but it would be wrong to pigeon-hole her and it would be very interesting to see her run on better ground. I’d love to see what difference it makes to her. She stayed the trip very well and the Guineas would be in our minds. That’s the dream for the moment.”
Eased into the race by James Doyle, Threading sailed past American hope Happy Like Fool approaching the final furlong before crossing the line a length and three-quarters clear from Madeline.
The step up in class from Goodwood appeared seamless – and there is more to come from a filly unbeaten from her two starts to date.
Doyle said: “It’s a bit early to tell if she is a Guineas filly. She is showing all the right signs. She rides like an older horse, to be honest. She jumped well, sat a couple of lengths off the pace, eased into it well and knuckled down well late on. She is very professional.”
There was White Rose success when Flaming Spear demonstrated a touch of class to land the Clipper Logistics Handicap.
Sweeping to the front inside the final furlong, the Kevin Ryan-trained gelding was not for catching under Robert Winston.
The finale saw a Yorkshire one-two, David O’Meara’s Lincoln Rocks beating Tim Easterby’s Breakable.
Yet these local successes were eclipsed by Epsom and Irish Oaks heroine Enable adding the Yorkshire equivalent to a growing haul that also includes an emphatic victory against allcomers in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot – the Flat’s midsummer highlight.
Now the overwhelming favourite for October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, European racing’s showpiece contest, her wide-margin victory came five years after owner Prince Khalid Abdullah’s green, pink and white colours were carried to York glory by the mighty Frankel.
Quickly out of the stalls, the John Gosden-trained three-year-old was soon into an early lead that she maintained throughout the mile-and-a-half contest.
Winding up the tempo early on down the home straight, the daughter of Nathaniel lengthened in impressive fashion for Frankie Dettori as each of her rivals wilted.
She had five lengths in hand over stablemate Coronet and provided the rider with a tonic ahead of Lady Aurelia’s date with destiny in today’s Nunthorpe Stakes.
“I must say she got a bit bored,” said Dettori after performing a flying dismount for the ecstatic Ladies Day crowd.
“I pushed her out, but I felt I had something left if someone had come to her.
“I don’t like to say until the Arc (whether best horse ridden), so far she is doing everything the right way and would be one of the best. She goes there with a favourite’s chance. She has won four Group Ones in a row by five lengths and you can’t ask for more than that.”