x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pressure on Mark Johnston's horses to find some form

Has been a frustrating season for the trainer of 80 of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's horses.

The victory of Fulbright, left, at Newmarket last week has been one of the few successes for Mark Johnston this season.
The victory of Fulbright, left, at Newmarket last week has been one of the few successes for Mark Johnston this season.

A trainer for a prominent member of the Dubai Royal Family has acknowledged he faces a race against time to have his string in top form for the Glorious Goodwood meeting that starts in two weeks' time in England.

Mark Johnston, the Scottish trainer who handles around 80 horses for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, saddled a rare high-profile winner this season on Friday when Fulbright scored in a handicap at Newmarket Racecourse for the Crown Prince of Dubai.

Although Johnston has accumulated over 100 winners in 2012, he has saddled 11 horses that have trailed in last during the past two weeks in a frustrating season because of numerous illnesses going around his stable.

"There is no getting away with it, my horses have been running very badly," Johnston said. "We've had a lot of foot infections, skin infections - all probably related to the bad weather."

"When that happens you work them a bit less, you run them a bit less and when they get to the races they just are not fit."

Fulbright's victory was his fifth run since May, and his success has lead Johnston to the belief that he needs to work his horses harder over the coming weeks.

Johnston has been the leading trainer at the five-day festival, due to start on August 31, seven times and is fourth in the overall standings of current trainers with 50 winners at the Glorious meeting in total.

"I've got to bite the bullet and keep them all working," he said. "It's hard to say which horses are affected as they have all been coughing. It isn't as simple as they have an infection and therefore they are sick and incapable of running.

"On Thursday I had five runners and the one who was busiest and out of her class ran the race of her life to come third. The other four looked beautiful - they were shiny and fat.

"If I had a winner for every comment I had for how well they looked I'd be laughing. I can't say there is less and less coughing now. It has gone through them all."

Elsewhere, Peter Schiergen believes that Danedream will have no problems handling the expected soft ground at Ascot Racecourse in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday.

Last season's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine could clash with St Nicholas Abbey, the Dubai Sheema Classic runner-up, and Dunaden, the Melbourne Cup victor, as 12 horses stood their ground at yesterday's penultimate declaration stage.

"Soft ground would not bother her at all, she handles it very well indeed so if it was very soft that would not change anything," the German trainer said.

"She prefers a strong gallop and that is usually what you get in England."

Deep Brilliante represents Japan, while Sea Moon turns out for Prince Khalid Abdullah, of Saudi Arabia, after winning the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in taking style last month.

Nathaniel is on course to defend his crown in the Group 1 contest, run over 12 furlongs, after winning the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown 10 days ago.

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