MIDDLEHAM’S Mark Johnston is now within touching distance of a new record for winners in a calendar year – with three months of 2019 still to go.
The victory of Huboor at Newmarket on Saturday was the all-conquering Johnston stable’s 228th success of the year, breaking its own record.
And there’s every reason that the North Yorkshire yard will break the record of 235 winners, set by Malton’s Richard Fahey in 2015, in the coming days.
Johnston has been enjoying a remarkable run of success since he broke the all-time record of British-trained winners at York in Ebor last year when the Frankie Dettori-ridden Poet’s Society provided him with a landmark 4,194th victory, surpassing the career haul of the now retired Richard Hannon senior.
The trainer, 59, saddled his first winner in 1987 and was fulsome in his praise for Huboor’s win under jockey Jim Crowley for long-standing owner Hamdan Al Maktoum.
“Last time at Chester, she missed the break and could never really recover on that track,” he said.
“We thought it was mostly down to that. We weren’t absolutely certain about stepping her up in trip, but I’m sure it has helped her today.
“I can’t say I was always confident, but she kept finding once hitting the rising ground.
“She came back bigger and stronger after her break – and although Chester was a bit of a blip, she has made steady progress through the season.
“We’ll stick at this trip for now, but there aren’t many options for her at this stage of the season.”
The win provided some compensation for the trainer after his highly-regarded Raffle Prize, ridden by the aforementioned Dettori, was touched off the Jessica Harrington-trained and Shane Foley-ridden Millisle in the final furlong of the Group One Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes.
Millisle’s victory continued a tremendous run for Harrington who is now established as one of the most successful dual-purpose trainers – her CV, for example, includes a 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup win over jumps with Sizing John.
“I think that is our seventh second in a Group One this year, although it could be eight. It is at least seven, so it is pretty sickening,” rued a deflated Johnston who would be the first to admit that he does not have the big race wins to match his prolific record.
“Frankie said she did everything right, but in the last 50 yards that one has come from the clouds and he didn’t know where she came from.
“She has not had a day off all year and there are not many horses we can say that about. She has been perfectly straightforward. That would be it for the season, as I don’t think there is anything else.”
However Johnston still believes Raffle Prize could be a Classic contender next year in the 1000 Guineas.
“It is sickening not to have had a Group One with her. Frankie got off and said she is my Guineas filly for next year,” he added.
“That would normally be my attitude with these sort of horses, as if they don’t get the trip they can come back in trip later.”
Meanwhile Earthlight took his perfect record to five in a dramatic renewal of the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes for colts.
The Andre Fabre-trained colt held the persistent challenge of Golden Horde in the hands of Mickael Barzalona to land Group One honours in race that was highly-anticipated.
However, there was a shock at the start where the also-unbeaten Siskin was withdrawn before the off, after the Ger Lyons-trained colt reared and went down in the stalls.
In race itself, King Neptune went off at a furious pace, followed by runaway York winner Mums Tipple, Golden Horde and Summer Sands. Earthlight and Threat were towards the rear and it was the former who burst through to make his bid, only for Golden Horde to prove a worthy rival.
It was close home that the favourite was able to assert and score by a neck from the Clive Cox-trained Golden Horde, with Malton trainer Richard Fahey’s Summer Sands outrunning his odds of 100-1 to finish a length and three-quarters back in third place.
“I was very confident all the way, as he was travelling easily and I know he (Barzalona) still had something under the saddle, so I was confident.
“We’ll prepare for the (2000) Guineas,” said Fabre.