Norfolk looks ideal for Cardsharp

Trainer Mark Johnston
Trainer Mark Johnston
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MARK Johnston is leaning more towards the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot for Cardsharp following his victory in the Brian Yeardley Continental Two Year Old Trophy at Beverley on Saturday.

The Middleham trainer had been thinking about Coventry Stakes over six furlongs as a possible objective for the two-year-old colt after he took second place behind De Bruyne Horse in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom a week earlier.

However, Johnston is having second thoughts after Cardsharp showed plenty of dash over the minimum trip to defeat stablemate Rufus King in a significant race that saw 2016 victor Prince Of Lir go on to win the aforementioned Norfolk Stakes.

“I can’t say I had a plan to go there (Beverley) prior to Epsom,” he said.

“When he got beat at Epsom I had a few entries in the Brian Yeardley, but it looked a bit too good an opportunity to resist, as it looked on paper that he could win the race.

“I think before we were leaning towards the Coventry, as we thought he might be a nice six-furlong horse, but possibly after that we might lean towards the Norfolk. He heads to Ascot and will have entries in both.”

The runner-up could also be bound for the Royal meeting.

“Rufus King looked very green in both his races, even when he won last time,” said Johnston.

“On what he did at Pontefract we could not consider him an Ascot horse.

“We felt he needed another run and we decided if he is an Ascot horse he would have to run well in the Brian Yeardley. Possibly after that he could go there.”

Meanwhile Chica La Habana is set to head to Royal Ascot for either the Queen Mary or Albany Stakes following an impressive debut performance at Beverley.

Ground conditions are likely to play a hand in the final decision with trainer Robert Cowell hinting the five-furlong Queen Mary could be the favoured target if the going is slow and the Albany over six furlongs preferred if it is quick.

Chica La Habana burst on the scene with a taking victory by three-quarters of a length over the race-hardened Maggies Angel, trained by Malton’s Richard Fahey, in the Hilary Needler Trophy.

“She’s been doing some nice work at home, but she’s quite a lazy type so it’s hard to get a real handle on her,” said Cowell. “We thought she had a bit of an engine on her but we didn’t know how gutsy she’d be, but she’s quite useful on what we’ve seen there.

“She’ll definitely go to Royal Ascot. She’ll have an entry in the Albany and the Queen Mary. If the ground is on the fast side we’ll probably decide on the Albany. If it’s softer we’ll go for the Queen Mary.

“We’ll talk to Peter Swann (of owners, Cool Silk Partnership) and all connections and make a plan, but I suggest it will be along that sort of route.”

Thseme will have her sights lowered next time out when she appears at Ayr on June 24.

Fifth of 19 in the Nunthorpe behind Mecca’s Angel last summer, she finished the season with a second to subsequent Temple Stakes winner Priceless.

This season Thesme has shown little in two starts but North Yorkshire trainer Nigel Tinkler hopes a drop in grade will help her return to form.

“She’ll go to Ayr next, there’s a fillies’ Listed race worth £50,000 for her,” he said. “She’s just taken a little bit of time to come to herself this year but she’s getting there.”