Johnston confident Permian can finally make the grade in Paris

Permian ridden by jockey William Buick wins the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot.Permian ridden by jockey William Buick wins the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot.
Permian ridden by jockey William Buick wins the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot.
MARK JOHNSTON was adamant that Permian was a Group One horse after his Dante hero swept to victory at Royal Ascot.

Now the colt gets a chance to vindicate the Middleham trainer when it lines up in tonight’s Juddmonte Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in Paris.

A truly international race with runners from England, Ireland and France, this mile-and-a-half contest for three-year-old colts and fillies racing off level weights is worthy of its stature.

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Perhaps the biggest question is whether Permian, owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s family and the mount of William Buick, is still in peak condition for his seventh race of the current campaign.

Victory in York’s Dante Stakes in May was followed by a below-par run in the Epsom Derby before the horse showed great guts and resolution to win the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, a landmark 40th winner at the blue riband meeting for Johnston, after surging clear on the final bend under Buick.

At the time, Johnston said: “We’ve taken a slight step back in grade by coming to this race after the Derby, but his next run now has to be in G1 company – he needs that G1 tag on his neck.”

Despite the heavy workload, Permian has been impressing connections on the gallops – Johnston is a big believer in running his horses frequently, fitness and form permitting – and will certainly not be heading to France to make up the numbers.

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Buick, for one, is hopeful Johnston’s Nyaleti can win Newmarket’s Duchess of Cambridge Stakes this afternoon. He then rides the quietly fancied Wuheida in the feature Falmouth Stakes at 3.35pm for Charlie Appleby before jetting off to Paris in time to ride the Yorkshire challenger nearly four hours later at 7.25pm.

“Permian came into the Derby as a fancied horse after his Dante win. He disappointed at Epsom, but bounced back in the King Edward. He won well that day and stays a mile and a half well,” said Buick.

“He probably had the run of the race at Ascot, but he was still never going to get beat from a long way out.

“If he can transfer his Ascot performance to Saint-Cloud, he must have a very good chance.

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“He’s uncomplicated and has got a great mind. He is probably a horse that could still be on the up.

“Although you have to respect the horses he’s up against, there is certainly no standout horse in the field.

“On paper, from what we know so far, it’s not the strongest Group One, but sometimes you say that and further down the line or later in the season, these horses go and prove to be Group One horses.

“Permian belongs in the race having won two Group Twos and the natural progression is to try and bag a Group One with him.”

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Johnston’s son and assistant, Charlie, feels the time is right to give the son of Teofilo another crack at this high grade.

“We’ve come up short once in Group One company, but having won the Dante and the King Edward, he fully deserves his place in any Group One field now,” he said.

“The first thing William said after he pulled up at Ascot was he was just a completely different horse (to Epsom).

“At home going into both races we thought we had him spot on. Something wasn’t quite right at Epsom. Nothing came to light, but thankfully the horse bounced back in great style.”

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Permian’s form was certainly boosted by Raheen House winning the Bahrian Trophy on day one of Newmarket’s July meeting.

A key St Leger trial, Brian Meehan’s charge had previously finished fourth to the Johnston horse in the King Edward VII Stakes. “I would be quite happy to leave him for the St Leger. I imagine we will go straight there as that will suit the horse. That’s the sensible place to go,” said the trainer.

There was a Charlie Appleby one-two for Godolphin in the feature Princess of Wales’s Stakes when last year’s Eclipse hero Hawkbill, ridden by James Doyle, beat the more fancied Frontiersman who hung badly in the final furlong under the aforementioned Buick.

“I went out with a game plan just to let him enjoy himself at a speed he was comfortable at and let him roll along and give him plenty of time to hit top stride,” said Doyle, who had earlier won on Johnston’s Cardsharp. “We got away with the ground today. The drop of rain we had definitely helped him.”