Mark Johnston Stable Tour ahead of the 2019 Qatar Goodwood Festival

Mark Johnston talks through his potential team of horses heading for the 2019 Qatar Goodwood Festival.

Leading chances...

DEE EX BEE - Qatar Goodwood Cup Stakes

I'm very, very happy with Dee Ex Bee. He hasn't done anything fast (since Ascot), but he's looking really well. We know it's a tall order and we know it's not ideal coming back in trip. Going into the Gold Cup the extra half-mile was a question, but he confirmed he got every inch of the trip and wouldn't have minded a bit more.

There's absolutely nothing we can do about Stradivarius. You can't belittle him in anyway. Somebody asked me the other day if we were looking for chinks in his armour, but I'm not sure he's got any chinks in his armour.

He's won two Ascot Gold Cups, so you couldn't question his stamina. All you could say is maybe Dee Ex Bee has got more. But there's nothing we can do about that really. Maybe other trainers do look into the tactics, but I don't. They are horses and they're more akin to Formula 1 cars than they are to human athletes. There's no psychology involved.

Some of the greatest trainers in the world would disagree with me, but tactics don't win you races - they only get you beat. That's been my policy all my career. I never set out with a plan.

It occurred to me a little bit (that Stradivarius was 'the people's horse') and we probably won't be a popular winner if we beat him in the Goodwood Cup. I'm probably being a little naive in thinking that Double Trigger was more of a people's horse. I think we can though possibly because of his style, his colour, and his longevity of course.

Double Trigger's last Goodwood Cup win probably stands out for me emotionally in my time as a trainer to be honest. I was sitting in the usual place in the trainers' stand and I couldn't believe other trainer and trainer's friends and family were running around to get a spot by the winner's enclosure. I'd never experienced that before.

He really was a people's horse.

We considered sending Dee Ex Bee elsewhere - the Doncaster Cup and the Prix du Cadran might not have Stradivarius in them - but you can't be afraid of one horse.

Dee Ex Bee at the Johnston yard
Dee Ex Bee at the Johnston yard

VISINARI - Qatar Vintage Stakes

I'm kicking myself (after Newmarket). We had a great debate and probably became influenced by these timings and the talk of stride length and everything else. He made all in his novice race and never really looked like getting beaten but at the same time, he was never better than at the line. The really simplistic thing to say is that 'would the horse have done any better going a bit further?' and yes he definitely would have. A furlong out he was a neck in front and by the line he was clear. We should have stepped up to seven furlongs.

I made a mistake and the horse got beaten as a result of it but I hope we won't make the same mistake and we'll get a better result here.

NYALETI - Qatar Nassau Stakes

She will go to the Nassau. She's a wee bit of a forgotten horse. We took that chance of stepping her up to a mile and a half and sometimes when you run a horse too far then it's difficult to see they're running too far with the jockey saying it's one-paced, but so often it has actually run out of petrol and just plugged on.

I think her run in the Cheshire Oaks made it very obvious she didn't stay. Three furlongs out it looked like she was coming to win the race, then he didn't see it out.

DARK VISION - Unibet Golden Mile Handicap

He's been a little bit frustrating but at least we've seen the ability is there. He'll run in the Golden Mile - on the one hand you'd say that we've got a horse that's been disappointing and on the other hand we've gone from one who has been a bit precious to one who is considered 'just another Godolphin horse' and he's not unique in any way. I think he'll be better for a bit of racing and I think he's made his own trouble.

I think maybe a bit of headgear will sharpen him up and make it easier for the jockey. James Doyle last time said he's very hard to keep in the race until he decides he's going to go. I'm not one to study all these sectional times and everything and no doubt it wasn't the strongest Vintage Stakes he won last year but the one thing was the manner of his win.

At the bottom of the hill it looked like he had no chance and next thing you know is that he's won well. I suppose if you analyse it they were stopping in front and everyone gets excited about a horse who comes from the back, and less so about one who makes all. It made for an exciting finish.

Dark Vision exercises on Mark Johnston's galllops
Dark Vision exercises on Mark Johnston's galllops

LAKE VOLTA - Unibet Stewards' Cup

He could run in the Stewards' Cup but he's down to run in the Scottish Stewards' Cup on Friday at Hamilton first. Charlie (Johnston) says six furlongs isn't really ideal for the horse and thinks there are enough big seven-furlong handicaps, but I said he won over six at Goodwood earlier this season. I was influenced in regards to Hamilton due to his Goodwood win and that Joe Fanning can ride him. He has a lot of faith in the horse and a lot of faith in his early speed. Joe feels he can win at any trip from six furlongs to a mile. Blown By Wind could also run in the Stewards' Cup.

LOVE DREAMS

He's likely to go to Goodwood. He's quite difficult because he can be too keen. Recently, Franny (Norton) seems to have got the measure of him and got the best out of him but he can be a difficult ride if he gets set alight too much.


Rest of the team...

Vale Of Kent has an entry in the Unibet Golden Mile Handicap too but is likely to take in the big handicap at Ascot (Moet & Chandon International Stakes) a week on Saturday. Elarqam is on the spreadsheet but he'll probably go for the Sky Bet York Stakes instead.

Marie's Diamond is declared to run at Haydock and no doubt Ventura Knight will run again before Goodwood. That's not going to stop any of them running there, as I've said we don't lay anything out for the meeting, we just run in-form horses.

Making Miracles is on course for the stayers' handicap handicap over two and a half miles and will be joined by Lucky Deal I'd imagine, but Austrian School probably won't go. King's Advice - the Sky Bet Ebor has got to be the main target but there is the mile and six handicap at Goodwood and there's a fair chance he'll turn out there first. Baghdad didn't run a bad race at Newmarket, the small field and the race being run in fits and starts didn't suit. We're thinking quite possibly the Ebor for him.

Aquarium has been a great frustration to us but if he would break out of the stalls he'd be a different horse. Matterhorn is probably not running in the Sussex Stakes but it's not impossible.


Mark Johnston on...

Love affair with Goodwood - It started by winning races, but no doubt with Double Trigger as well. I've got owners who first noticed me after Double Trigger's Goodwood success. He probably paid a big part. I don't think I target the course specifically, I'm not sure there's a specific type of horse who does well there. I think, generally speaking, at complicated tracks we do well at. It's the same at Epsom. It's because we don't complicate things. If you don't run there you can't win and a lot of trainers' don't. It's their loss. Goodwood and Royal Ascot are the only meetings that we do a huge spreadsheet in advance and pencil in all the potential horses. By Goodwood, you generally know whether your horse is good enough to go down.

Prospect of breaking his own record of 230 winners in one season - We are always looking to break records. We set targets at the beginning of the year. They are not written in stone, but we set a target by our numbers of runners as well as winners. You need to have a lot of runners to be able to have a chance of having more winners. You need to look at whether your strike-rate is high enough and you're having enough runners. When we started this season, breaking that record of 230 winners was a target.

Retirement - Charlie is playing a much bigger role these days. Although sometimes we are at loggerheads at the entry stage, we have two people in me and Charlie who are thinking about where they will run. He couldn't wait for me to retire five years ago but if you ask him now, he is working here in his fourth year that the job is bigger than he thought. Charlie only focuses on racing, he doesn't worry about getting a hedge cut, recruitment or other things, he just concentrates on racing. A huge part of when I retire will be down to the customers. There are already some owners who will talk to Charlie instead of me. In some ways, it is the astute owners who will talk to Charlie! I don't want to wait too long before he takes over so that he takes over a stable in decline and I don't want to be carried out in a box. He is the only person I want to break my record of British winners. I would like to retire at a point where there is no-one still training who is able to break my record except for Charlie Johnston."

Dee Ex Bee at the Johnston yard
Dee Ex Bee at the Johnston yard


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