Mark Johnston eyes St Leger after going close in the Derby

WILLIAM BUICK'S joy at Masar's shock success in the Investec Derby '“ the most significant win in the jockey's career '“ contrasted with Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston's frustration after Dee Ex Bee finished a creditable second in Epsom's showpiece race.

Winner: William Buick celebates his Epsom Derby success on Masar.
Winner: William Buick celebates his Epsom Derby success on Masar.

A landmark first triumph in the blue riband race for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, the largely overlooked Masar proved himself to be a worthy champion after being given a dream ride by the naturally gifted Buick, a Northern Racing College graduate.

Yet, while no Yorkshire-trained horse has won the Derby since the legendary Dante prevailed in 1945, Dee Ex Bee’s result equalled the second-place finish recorded by Karl and Elaine Burke’s Libertarian – ironically ridden by Buick – five years ago.

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Middleham-based Johnston, who is on course to become Britain’s winning-most trainer of all-time later this year, harbours Classic hopes of his own with the Silvestre de Sousa-ridden Dee Ex Bee – both the Irish Derby at the end of the month, and Doncaster’s St Leger in September, are realistic propositions.

“Second sucks! I thought with one-and-a-half furlongs to go that he’s run a great race and we’re going to be in the first four. I think there was only a very brief moment I thought we might get back up and win,” said Johnston, who recorded his 4,000th winner last year.

“We came here with doubts about his effectiveness on the track and I’m not sure it suits. Because of the camber he rolled on to the one on his inside, but he rallied again up the hill so it bodes really well for the future.

“You could go to the Irish Derby, but I’ve said before that I don’t think I’ve ever had a horse more suited to the St Leger, so I think it could be best to work backwards from that. He’s still a big baby and probably the biggest horse in the field, everything suggests there should be better to come.”

Masar’s 16-1 victory franked the form of Newmarket’s Craven Stakes in April when he was a runaway winner before finishing third to Aidan O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas.

However, Saxon Warrior, the odds-on-favourite, found trouble in running at Epsom, and appeared unsuited by the roller-coaster course, and could not finish any better than fourth.

Though Dee Ex Bee was always prominent, it was Masar who powered clear in the home straight to provide trainer Charlie Appleby with a first Classic and compensation for Wild Illusion’s Oaks disappointment 24 hours previously.

Though Roaring Lion, York’s Dante winner, briefly challenged under Oisin Murphy, he did not appear to see out the mile-and-a-half trip and was caught on the line by Dee Ex Bee in the battle for runner-up honours. He will drop back in trip to 10 furlongs and races like Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse look tailor-made.

However, the slightly surprising outcome should take nothing away from the winner and, in particular, Buick, who has flourished since becoming Godolphin’s main jockey.

Buick, 30 next month, came to prominence when winning the 2010 and 2011 St Legers on Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel, respectively.

Yet, despite many big-race triumphs around the world, including a first Breeders’ Cup win last year on Appleby’s Wuheida, this was his first domestic Classic since his twin Doncaster successes.

He said he had dreamt of winning the Derby from the moment he wanted to follow his father Walter and become a jockey. “I knew before the race that Masar would be a straightforward ride which is what you want in the Derby and that was how it worked out,” he said.

“Other horses I’ve ridden in the Derby have lacked the practical gears required and the pace for an ideal Derby horse. Charlie was confident he would stay and it was just a case of getting him into a nice rhythm.

“Winning the Derby is really special. It is the pinnacle of our sport – it’s the Holy Grail, the be all and end all. It’s lovely for Charlie, Sheikh Mohammad and his family and I’m delighted to win the race.”

Masar is a first winner of the premier Classic for his sire, New Approach, who took the Derby in 2008.

“We have tried to win the Derby so many times and to finally win the race is very special,” said Sheikh Mohammed whose son owns Dee Ex Bee. “William gave him a lovely ride and horses are my blood so it is a special moment to win the Derby. It’s not easy to win but we have won it.”

Sentiments that also give hope to Johnston as he looks to win the Flat’s ultimate race.