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Mark Johnston believes Dee Ex Bee will go the distance in Irish Derby

Middleham trainer Mark Johnston.
Middleham trainer Mark Johnston.
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MARK JOHNSTON expects Epsom Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee to be better suited by the Curragh when he seeks Classic glory in Ireland this weekend.

The Middleham trainer’s colt exceeded expectations to finish a fine second to the William Buick-ridden Masar in Flat racing’s showpiece race.

Now Dee Ex Bee has been supplemented, at a cost of €100,000, for this Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on a flat track that plays to the strengths of big, galloping horses.

Though the Charlie Appleby-trained Masar, victorious at Epsom, is missing the Group One race ahead of the shorter Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on July 7, the field does include Saxon Warrior.

An impressive winner of the 2000 Guineas, Saxon Warrior could only finish fourth at Epsom after struggling to handle the track’s undulations and becoming poorly positioned as a result.

However, Johnston is buoyed by his stable’s fine form, which included two winners at Royal Ascot last week, as he closes in on the now retired Richard Hannon’s senior all-time tally of 4,193 winners.

“We had a bumper run in May and it’s carried forward into June. The horses are flying high, so let’s hope it continues until Saturday and beyond,” said Johnston, who hopes to break the Hannon record this summer.

“He’s absolutely fine since Epsom, no issues at all. It’s always a nervous time when you are making a significant supplementary entry.

“Epsom was certainly not a surprise, but realistically if someone had said before the race that you could finish in the first three then I’d probably have settled for that.

“Coming into the final furlong I thought he might finish fourth, so we were delighted with second place. He’s a really big horse and physically he should enjoy the Curragh a lot more.”

Appleby has also supplemented Old Persian following his win in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the progressive horse will be ridden by Buick as the Northern Racing College graduate seeks a Derby double.

“We are happy with the way Old Persian came out of the race and the signs are positive,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“An eight-day turnaround at that level is always a concern, but he’s eaten up and exercised well. We are confident we can come to the Curragh with a very competitive horse.”