Johnston could end barren run in Classics with Elarqam

MARK JOHNSTON hopes to record his first Classic in nearly seven years when Elarqam takes on Aidan O'Brien's top milers in today's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

Elarqam bids to land today's Irish 2000 Guineas for Middleham trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Jim Crowley.

The Middleham trainer last landed one of racing’s elite races when Jukebox Jury dead-heated with Duncan in the 2011 Irish St Leger.

However he’s clearly hopeful that Jim Crowley’s mount – fourth in this month’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket – can get the better of Gustav Klimt and US Navy Flag as O’Brien seeks to win the colts’ Classic for a 12th time.

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Sired by the legendary Frankel, Elarqam’s dam Attraction won the English and Irish 1000 Guineas in 2004 for Johnston.

Middleham trainer Mark Johnston.

“The field looks ideal and the horse is in great order. Everything is good. Obviously he (O’Brien) has got four in it which makes it a little bit more difficult,” said the trainer.

“I’ve got the greatest of respect for US Navy Flag. He was a great horse last year.

“He had enough defeats last year and bounced back from them at the highest level. You’ve got to respect him despite his last run, but basically we just care that our horse runs up to his best.”

Elarqam is owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and his racing manager, Richard Hills, believes the classically bred colt can win today’s big race as O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior, winner of the 2000 Guineas, sidesteps this test in favour of next weekend’s Epsom Derby.

Trainer Mark Johnston. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

“I think he’ll take all the beating. He has come out of the race really well,” said Hills. “Newmarket was only the third run of his life and he lost his way a bit into the Dip. The Curragh will suit him. I think he should win.”

And the aforementioned Crowley concurs. “Elarqam ran a cracking race at Newmarket on his first run of the year and will improve for that, and there’s no Saxon Warrior,” said the rider.

US Navy Flag, the mount of Ryan Moore, appears to be O’Brien’s main contender. As well as Gustav Klimt, the Ballydoyle trainer also runs Spanish Point and Threeandfourpence.

Charlie Hills believes star sprinter is more than ready for his seasonal return in today’s Temple Stakes at Haydock.

Opponents include the veteran Take Cover from the Bawtry yard of David Griffiths and the Karl Burke-trained Havana Grey who believes the three-year-old will improve on his comeback run at Newmarket when fifth.

“A few people thought we might be disappointed as he was top on ratings there,” said the Leyburn trainer. “But it’s hard for the three-year-olds at this time of year, particularly over five furlongs as they have nowhere to go without taking on their elders.”