Priestley provides handicap cheer for Johnston at Haydock

Well-regarded colt back to winning ways

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Sir Ron Priestley led the charge as Mark Johnston continued his domination of the valuable bet365 Handicap at Haydock.

The Middleham trainer supplied four of the seven runners in the £62,250 affair, and was rewarded with a half-length victory for the well-backed 15-8 favourite, from stablemate Mind The Crack.

The Johnston sequence was briefly broken by third home Prefontaine, for Roger Varian, before Summer Moon and Themaxwecan completed the powerhouse Yorkshire yard’s near clean sweep in fourth and fifth.

After Franny Norton had pounced up the straight on Sir Ron Priestley to win driven out, Johnston’s son and assistant Charlie admitted to mixed feelings – once he had a moment to collect his thoughts following necessary conversations with his four jockeys and connections.

Asked about the stable’s domination of both field and finish, he said: “It’s easy for us to say, isn’t it?

“Fair play to the racecourse – they’ve put on a valuable prize like that – you’ll have to ask the other trainers why they’re not here.

“We finished first and second in it last year – and we’ve done so again.”

The handicap for three-year-olds who stay a mile and three-quarters is tailor made for Johnston’s string.

“In a way, it’s slightly disheartening from a selfish point of view – because we know they are four very nice horses, and could have won four different races,” the assistant trainer added.

“But this is the best race for them all, individually, for different owners, and it was the right place for them all to come.”

Sir Ron Priestley was bouncing back, following his disappointing effort in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot, to win at this course for the second time this season.

He may well be booked for further high-profile assignments.

Johnston said: “We’ve always held him in very, very high regard – he was entered in the King Edward at Ascot, which tells you the esteem he’s been held in at home right through the year.

“Behind (Duke of Edinburgh Stakes winner) Baghdad, I thought he was our best chance of the meeting at Royal Ascot – quite what went wrong that day, I don’t know. Maybe it was the ground – his two good runs here have both been on good ground.

“We were happy to put a line through that and go again, and he’s confirmed what we were pretty certain of – that he’s a very good horse.”

At suggestions the St Leger may even be on the colt’s agenda, Johnston mentioned the possibility of staging posts at York – either in handicap or Group class.

“He’d need to win elsewhere in between now and then – something like the Melrose is an obvious stepping stone,” he said.

“I’m trying to think whether we put him in the Voltigeur earlier in the week – I’ve got a funny feeling we might have.

“He’ll have to climb the ranks again between now and then – but he was always a horse we thought it was only a matter of time getting him into stakes company.”

Danzeno is from a generation of different vintage, but that did not stop the eighty-year-old winning the bet365 Conditions Stakes.

Mick Appleby’s gelding continues to thrive – and the 6-5 favourite, ridden by Alistair Rawlinson, duly followed up his mighty third in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot with a tidy half-length success from Enjazaat.

The proud trainer said: “He’s in good order. He’s come back really well – we gave him a long break, and it’s done him wonders.

“He’s back to his best, and he can go and win again – another big one, I hope.”

Priestley provides handicap cheer for Johnston at Haydock
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