Charlie Johnston is hoping for another successful week at the Qatar Goodwood Festival and talks Oli Bell through some of the yard's main protagonists.
Mark Johnston was leading trainer at the Qatar Goodwood Festival for the fourth year in succession last summer.
That title provided him with a record 13th top trainer award at the big meeting overall, a love affair that began when he claimed the gong for the first time in 1998.
Johnston has been hugely prolific since the lockdown period ceased and sends another strong team to Goodwood this week, featuring Gold Cup runner-up Nayef Road, who takes on Stradivarius once more.
Charlie Johnston, son and assistance to the trainer said: "It’s going to be a different Glorious Goodwood for us but we’re looking forward to the week as ever.
"Normally we’d go down on the Monday and stay to the Saturday night, socialising with owners where possible, but there’s going to be none of that this year and for once I’m planning to go up and down each day.
"It’s always a meeting we look to do well at and from point of view it’s no different. The programme book has been evolving only two or three weeks in advance so it’s not been too easy to plan but in the summer months Royal Ascot is followed by Newmarket, then to Goodwood and York, and they're four big meetings for us.
"Goodwood has probably always come a close second to Royal Ascot, and a meeting we target from the start of the year."
He’s great, in fantastic order and we couldn’t be happier with him. The ride Withhold was given in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot didn’t help us at all, unfortunately. I was cursing to be honest as Withhold was ruining his own race and ruining our race in the process. So he kept on well in the circumstances. Stradivarius was superb and went past us like we were in reverse but I think our horse will improve for better ground and improve for coming back to two miles. I’m a little surprised Santiago is so much shorter than us in the betting and, personally, I think we’ll give Stradivarius most to think about. He’s improved for the Ascot run by the looks of things. It was interesting watching the entries tracking the other day and there were a few darts added late on. The more I think about it I’m not sure who will go forward in the race and maybe we’ll get an easier lead here. Andrea (Atzeni) will be back on him as Ryan Moore will have to ride Santiago but there's no issue there and I'm looking forward to it. We spent all last year banging our heads against a brick wall with Dee Ex Bee and maybe it'll be the same this year with Nayef Road but we'll see.
The Middleham Park team are fantastic and we get on very well with them. They’re a great team of owners and are always thinking outside the box. It was their idea to run in the Queen Anne and it paid dividends. They have half an eye on the Prix Maurice de Gheest in a couple of weeks’ time but he might go to the Lennox Stakes first. He showed some sharp sectionals in the Queen Anne so they were keen to come back in trip again.
He won at Newmarket nicely and had had a long time off so it was great for everyone. He’ll go for the mile and six furlong handicap we won with King’s Advice last year and he's in great form.
He will possibly run here and will no doubt have options. We left Ascot pleased but frustrated and thought we’d found the ideal race for him at Newmarket. I’m not sure what went wrong there, hopefully it was just the ground. But he needs to get back on that upward curve now and Goodwood is a very difficult place to ask that of him.
We did have half an eye on the Sussex Stakes but every day I opened the paper I saw another star horse going for it, so he went to Pontefract instead on Thursday and it paid off with him winning. Hopefully he can kick on again now but he won't be running at Goodwood this year.
To be fair to the horse he was always going to be in his brother’s shadow a bit. Sir Ron Priestley was a lot more lightly-raced as a two-year-old, this fella was highly tried at two and started his three-year-old campaign on a higher rating. This is a logical next step after the slightly calmer waters at Hamilton last time. He’s not the most robust horse and is quite light-framed, which might be like some of our typical horses. So he’s actually had quite an easy week between Hamilton and Goodwood but that won’t concern me going here.
He’s a very, very good horse and on a steep upward curve. The one blot on his copybook was on soft ground at Newmarket. The heavens opened and he actually showed up better than I thought he might on the day. You have to try and find out once, but deep down I knew he wouldn’t enjoy the conditions. He bounced back at Hamilton in the Scottish Stewards' Cup and will go for the 'real thing' here - I think the sharp six furlongs will really suit him at Goodwood. You have to be highly rated to get into the Stewards’ Cup as a three-year-old but I hope he’s possibly still ahead of his mark. I hope he's a Group horse further down the line.
He won the mile and a quarter handicap at Newmarket earlier in the month and he'll possibly have three options at Goodwood, though he’s probably not absolutely tailor-made for the track. He’s an absolute monster physically and he really ground them into submission at the July Festival. So we could go up to a mile and a half this week with that in mind.
He ran a nice race in the Superlative Stakes and looked to have come good but was green and babyish late on. He was quite well beaten in the end but I’d be disappointed if he didn’t make the grade in time.
Thunder Of Niagra
As soon as he crossed the line in the Coventry Stakes I thought Vintage. He ran a lovely race at Ascot and he was screaming out for seven furlongs. I'm looking forward to seeing how he gets on on the first day.
I thought he ran quite well at Newmarket. Two out he looked to have Tactical cooked but then it all changed. We’ll be watching the entries for the Richmond and see how that race is shaping up this year.
Army Of India
He’s got options and may even run in one of the nurseries, in which we’ll have a couple of runners in each race I’d have thought.