EVE Johnson Houghton is hoping Accidental Agent can silence the many detractors by becoming the first dual winner of the Queen Anne Stakes in 112 years.
Johnson Houghton’s 2018 Royal Ascot Group One hero delivered an emotional as well as surprise success, at odds of 33-1, when he beat the David O’Meara-trained Lord Glitters by half a length.
The trainer’s breakthrough victory at the top level came 12 years after she took over the licence following her father Fulke’s retirement.
For good measure, Accidental Agent – owned by her mother Gaie – is named after the autobiography of her maternal grandfather, war hero and former trainer John Goldsmith.
Johnson Houghton admits even 12 months on, much of her experience at Ascot last year remains “a blur” as she looks forward to next Tuesday’s renewal that will feature Leyburn trainer Karl Burke’s multiple Group One-winning filly Laurens.
She cannot help feeling either that she would love Accidental Agent to help “stick two fingers up” at those she has heard decrying the form of a race which dates back to 1840, initially as the Trial Stakes, and for much of this century – since being elevated to Group One status – has been limited to horses aged four and above.
As her charge’s preparations are completed for next week’s renewal of Royal Ascot’s opening event, she said: “I would just like to stick two fingers up to a few people. Everyone keeps saying ‘that was terrible, that older mile – terrible, terrible’. I don’t really care if he beat a terrible field – we won.”
After two lesser efforts in August and September last year, followed by surgery on an ankle problem, Accidental Agent has raised his trainer’s hopes with an encouraging return when chasing home Mustashry and the aforementioned Laurens in Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes.
“I think he’s in great form this time – I’m really pleased with him,” she said. “He looks fantastic, and he’s very happy in himself – so I just hope we get there and have the chance to give it a shot.
“He’s had problems. We thought we’d sorted them all out, but I knew he’d need the run in the Lockinge, so I was really pleased with the way he ran – considering he’d need it.”
Pam Sly plans to bring sprinter Dazzling Dan to York this Saturday for the £100,000 Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint.
She says the horse, victorious on his start at Newmarket, is the best she has trained since her 1000 Guineas heroine Speciosa in 2006.
“He’s absolutely fine,” said the trainer. “He’s in good form. He’s not over-big but he’s just a ball of muscle, really. He’s gradually stepping up the whole time.”
Meanwhile, the Melbourne Cup trophy will be on display at York’s Ebor festival this August.
Ripon is promising to become the ‘Royal Ascot of the North’ next week when it hosts a fantastic evening of racing and music on Wednesday followed by its annual Ladies Day meeting on Thursday, one of its annual highlights.