Mark Johnston Gears Up for Dante Stakes at York

MARK Johnston hopes Gear Up can confirm his Epsom Derby credentials in next week’s Dante Stakes at York – the centrepiece of the season-opening meeting on the Knavesmire.

Middleham trainer Mark Johnston.

The Group One winner is one of 18 entries for Thursday’s Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes where 10 past winners have gone on to triumph in Epsom’s blue riband race.

Middleham-based Johnston, who has saddled more winners than any other trainer, actually won the 2020 renewal with Thunderous.

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However, in a one-off, the Dante was run for the first, and only, time after the Derby due to racing’s rescheduling as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Trainer Mark Johnston with Poets Society giving the trainer his 4,194th domestic British winner, a new record, at York Racecourse on August 23, 2018, in York.

Gear Up, who runs in the colours of Teme Racing, has not been in action on a racecourse since winning the Group Criterium de Saint-Cloud in France last October under James Doyle.

But Johnston has made no secret of the regard in which he holds the colt who came to prominence when winning the Acomb Stakes at last summer’s Ebor Festival – and his desire to win the Classic after Dee Ex Bee was runner-up to Masar in the 2018 Derby.

“All is well. The Derby seems to be quite wide open, but no one seems to be talking about us!” said Johnston as the entries were revealed.

“He’s a Group One-winning two-year-old with York form.
“He’s only got one blot on his copybook when Franny (Norton) felt he didn’t make enough use of him in the Royal Lodge.

This was Mark Johnston's Thunderous after landing last year's Dante Stakes at York.

“Franny is the only one to be beaten on him, but I wouldn’t hold that against him as he told us as much about the horse as anybody.

“I don’t know who rides him next week yet.”

The field is headed by Aidan O’Brien’s unbeaten colt High Definition wholost his position at the head of the ante-post market on the Cazoo Derby after an unsatisfactory blood test earlier this week.

O’Brien had intended to run the son of Galileo in today’s Derby Trial at Lingfield, but there is a chance he could reappear on the Knavesmire should all go well in the meantime, with the Ballydoyle admitting it would be “very hard” to go to Epsom without a prep race.

O’Brien has also left in Hector De Maris, Matchless, Roman Empire, Sir Lamorak, Van Gogh and Wordsworth.

John Leeper, one of the most beautifully-bred horses in training being by Frankel out of Snow Fairy, will aim to build on his impressive Newcastle success for Ed Dunlop.

Charlie Appleby’s Hurricane Lane is another unbeaten contender while John and Thady Gosden could be doubly represented by Newcastle Listed winner Megallan and Uncle Bryn, who lost his perfect record in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom recently.

The William Haggas-trained Alenquer, the Sandown Classic Trial winner, may also run, with final declarations not due until Tuesday.

Meanwhile Malton trainer Richard Fahey has entered Pythagoras – a winner at Pontefract last year – for veteran Yorkshire owner Sir Robert Ogden.

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