Lesson learned by Rebel Assault ahead of Beverley Needler test

Trainer Mark Johnston. Picture: Simon Hulme
Trainer Mark Johnston. Picture: Simon Hulme
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REBEL Assault will aim to put an expensive failure last weekend behind her when she contests today’s Hilary Needler Trophy, one of the highighlights of Beverley’s season.

Sent off a long odds-on favourite at Musselburgh after an easy debut win at Catterick, she was surprisingly beaten by It Dont Come Easy, who needed to break the course record to get the upper hand.

Trainer Bryan Smart with Kentucky Connection at his stables at Hambleton.

Trainer Bryan Smart with Kentucky Connection at his stables at Hambleton.

Mark Johnston has not won the Hilary Needler since the brilliant Attraction in 2003, who went on to claim the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot before a brilliant three-year-old career that included 1000 Guineas success.

Charlie Johnston, the Middleham trainer’s son and assistant, said: “She was sent off 2-5 favourite at Musselburgh so obviously we were shocked she was beaten. However, I think they were two very good youngsters. They broke the track record and pulled 10 lengths clear and I think Richard (Fahey) thinks a fair bit of the winner.

“She still ran a good race and having won on her debut by eight lengths in a hack canter she’ll have learned plenty from last week.

“We could have gone straight to Royal Ascot with her but she’s about 20lb clear on the ratings and this looked a good opportunity for her.

We could have gone straight to Royal Ascot with her but she’s about 20lb clear on the ratings and this looked a good opportunity for her.

Charlie Johnston

“As we showed with (Coventry Stakes winner) Buratino a couple of years ago, we’re not afraid to run our two-year-olds to get experience into them.

“You have to be very good to win at Ascot after just one run and we’re not shy of being beaten, we’re keen to get runs into them.”

Owner Keith Brown has high hopes for Brian Ellison’s Moonlit Sands, but whether she has improved enough following her fifth place on her debut is another matter.

“She’s the real deal,” said Brown, who lives near Swanland.

Meanwhile, Bryan Smart is hoping to put a stressful couple of weeks behind him with Excellently Poised in the Brian Yeardley Continental Two Year Old Trophy Conditions Stakes.

Smart has been caught up in the case of Equine Herpes Virus-1 which is currently preventing Kevin Ryan from sending out runners, as one of Smart’s horses shared a horsebox with a Ryan runner when his had broken down.

Having been under quarantine for two weeks, Smart was left frustrated at not being able to run the Sepoy colt at Musselburgh last week on quicker ground.

The British Horseracing Authority confirmed yesterday afternoon that Hambleton trainer Smart was free to resume having runners, although restrictions remain on the Ryan yard.

“We need to know if he’s an Ascot horse which is why I was desperate to get a run into him,” said Smart of the colt part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.

“It would have been better ground last week so this whole virus thing has been a pain in more ways than one, I’d have loved to have just had to concentrate on getting him ready, never mind anything else.

“Beverley can get very wet but his dam Excelette, who I also trained, didn’t mind cut. Mind, she’d have run on a road or through a river, she was teak-tough. He’s a very similar type in truth, not very big but he just wants to please you and I’ve been very pleased with him at home.”

Chatburn got off the mark at the third time of asking for David O’Meara, and owner Emma Armstrong said: “We’ll see how he goes at Beverley, but Royal Ascot would be an option.”