Weekly Racing Blog: Johnstone Winners / Cheltenham Prospects / RIP Wichita

Johnston baguettes two weekend French prizes

Middleham-trainer Mark Johnston was on cloud neuf on Sunday evening after his weekend raid on Paris resulted in Gear Up winning the Criterium de Saint-Cloud on Saturday and Subjectivist landing the Prix Royal-Oak at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Seventh in our own St Leger, Subjectivist proved that staying is the name of the game in testing conditions when making all over the just shy of two mile trip in the hands of Joe Fanning.

Speaking in Paris, Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father said: “Plan A had been to go to Ascot for the champions stayers’ (Long Distance Cup), but when we saw Stradivarius and a few others were declared we thought we’d reroute to France – the added bonus being it’s a Group One.

We felt it was going to be a weaker race and it proved to be the right decision.”
Subjectivist received several bookmakers’ quotes of 20-1 for the Ascot Gold Cup next season.

Just 24 hours earlier Gear Up became a potential Derby hope after claiming victory in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, at Saint-Cloud.

Charlie Johnston said after the race: “Gear Up was one of six yearlings we bought for the Teme Valley syndicate, who wanted to buy a horse to go and win the Derby.

We’ve got a Group One-winning two-year-old now and it looks like the Derby is going to be his principal target for the first half of the year. There’s a lot of water to run under the bridge between now and then, but the obvious plan for him next year would be the Dante, then the Derby.”

Gear Up has been installed as a 33/1 Derby hope by several inline bookmakers.

Cheltenham & Aintree Debrief

As I alluded to on this website last week, quite often Cheltenham Festival winners come out of the Showcase Meeting, so it is well worth picking through the bones of the two-day fixture.


  • Kim Bailey’s Does He Know was nice winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and should go onto bigger and better things.
  • Galvin strengthened his claims for the National Hunt Chase with a wide-margin success in the Novices’ Chase.
  • Captain Tom Cat is likely to go over fences now according to Dr Richard Newland.
  • Rouge Vif showed his Queen Mother Champion Chase credentials with an emphatic victory in the Flying Spur.
  • Fusil Raffles became a Marsh Chase contender next March after another superb round of jumping.


  • Botox Has will head to the Gerry Fielden Hurdle at Newbury next month following his victory at Cheltenham.
  • Southfield Stone may return to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup, for which he was introduced as a 16/1 contender.
  • Pertemps scorer Honest Vic was installed as a 25/1 chance for the Final back there in March.
  • Frodon is once more a Gold Cup contender after scoring his sixth success at Prestbury Park.


Nuts Well, Acey Milan and Dell’ Arca all look like horses to carry on following, while Dan Skelton’s bumper winner – Elle Est Belle could well be a future star based on Sunday’s performance.

Sad news for O’Brien

Wichita, the 2,000 Guineas runner-up and Park Stakes winner trained by Aidan O’Brien, has been euthanised after suffering a fracture to his off hind leg earlier this month.

It was originally thought that Wichita should make a full recovery from an injury picked up in Australia which, it was initially feared, might have ended his career.

Wichita was last seen beating subsequent Prix de la Foret winner One Master in the Park Stakes at Doncaster over the summer.

O’Brien’s runner was down-under preparing for the Crystal Mile, which was then going to lead on to an attempt to take the Cantala Stakes at Flemington.

In a statement released by Racing Victoria on Monday, the authorities confirmed that Wichita sustained a further injury to his right hind leg, with vets unable to save the three-year-old son of No Nay Never.