It is 13 years since Attraction struck gold on the Westwood as part of an eight-race unbeaten run that included the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.
She retired in 2005, having won 10 of her 15 starts, including five Group One triumphs.
While it would be fanciful to suggest the Johnston-trained Boater can scale those heights, she could not have been more impressive on her Kempton introduction in late March.
The daughter of Helmet was a hot favourite to follow up in the Listed Marygate Stakes at York a fortnight ago and looked the winner until being mowed down late by unconsidered 33-1 shot Vona.
“She was beaten last time, but she ran a good race,” said Middleham-based Johnston. “She was in front for quite a long way and got caught by a filly on the far side of the track. She’s well and, hopefully, we can get her back on the winning trail.”
Keith Dalgleish, who rode Attraction, also saddles a major contender in Clem Fandango.
The Elzaam filly was runner-up on her Beverley debut before justifying prohibitive odds at Catterick.
Dalgleish said: “The ground will be fine for her, I think, and she ran well very well there on her debut behind a good horse (Seafront). She’d obviously have to run well at the weekend, but Royal Ascot would be considered.”
Constable Burton trainer Ann Duffield saddles Indigo Beat, who was fourth at Thirsk on her only previous start.
Duffield said: “She ran well enough first time out and we think she’s improved a bit since, but obviously she’ll need to have improved an awful lot to be troubling one or two of these.
“We’re probably tilting at windmills, but it’s nice to have a runner in a race like the Hilary Needler.”
Duffield also expects a return to the minimum distance to bring out the best in Rainbow Mist in the Brian Yeardley Continental Two Year Old Trophy, the chief supporting race.
The Lilbourne Lad colt won as he liked on his racecourse debut at Thirsk last month, but had to make do with minor honours in third when stepped up to six furlongs at Ripon a fortnight ago.
“He made a good impression on his first run and then didn’t get the six furlongs and didn’t handle the track at Ripon,” said Duffield. “He didn’t give himself chance to get the trip as he pulled too hard, so we’re coming back to five with him and we’ll see what we can do.”
The aforementioned Johnston fires a twin assault, with The Last Lion joined by stable companion Mailshot.
The Last Lion justified cramped odds on his introduction at Doncaster before passing the post second – later placed third – behind American challenger Create A Dream at Ascot.
Johnston also feels Buratino deserves a second chance in the 188Bet Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.
The Middleham trainer is prepared to give last season’s classy two-year-old the benefit of the doubt for a disappointing run in the Qipco 2000 Guineas over a mile.
Johnston is convinced the Classic form is questionable – the winner, Galileo Gold, was subsequently beaten in Ireland – and believes a drop back in trip to six furlongs will help Buratino who won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last year.
“I’m far from convinced his run in the Guineas was purely down to the trip,” said Johnston. “The form of both the 2000 and the 1000 Guineas has been turned around since and we’re just trying to reduce the variables by bringing him back to six furlongs on what will, hopefully, be fast ground. He’s very well and we’ll see what he can do.”
North Yorkshire jump jockey Brian Hughes, who has recorded a century of winners in each of the last two seasons, returns to the fray at Cartmel today following a spell on the sidelines. After breaking a collarbone at Aintree on Grand National day, Hughes then aggravated the injury at Wetherby.