SIR Ron Priestley and Nayef Road give Mark Johnston a formidable hand in his bid for a second victory in the Matchbook Yorkshire Cup.
It is 19 years since Zindabad provided the Middleham trainer with his first and only previous success in the prestigious staying contest, but he appears to have every chance of doubling his tally in the final day highlight of York’s Dante meeting.
Sir Ron Priestley, the 2019 St Leger runner-up, is the clear favourite for the Group Two contest, having returned from more than a year and a half on the sidelines with victories in the Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham and the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket.
Johnston said: “We are very strong in the staying department – and we did think that Sir Ron Priestley, Nayef Road and Subjectivist might all meet in the Gold Cup. But that’s now looking very unlikely, because Sir Ron Priestley probably won’t go that far.
“It’s great to see him demonstrating so much speed, and his next runs after the Yorkshire Cup are quite likely to be at a mile and a half, with the Hardwicke Stakes (Royal Ascot) a probable next target.
“It’s been very satisfying getting him back in such good form after missing last year – he’s given the impression he’s in the form of his life.”
Nayef Road is a serious threat to his stable companion after being placed behind champion stayer Stradivarius in three of his last four starts.
The biggest danger to the Johnston pair is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Santiago.
Last year’s Irish Derby hero was third behind Stradivarius and Nayef Road in the Goodwood Cup, and can be expected to improve from his recent comeback fourth in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan.
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