MARK JOHNSTON has enjoyed a fine season with his staying types and the Middleham-based trainer looks to hold another strong hand in the Listed feature of Saturday at York, the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup.

Johnston saddled three of the first four home in the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown last month, with Dee Ex Bee landing the spoils as Austrian School and Making Miracles finished third and fourth respectively.

Both Austrian School and Making Miracles are set to lock horns again on the Knavesmire, which will be their fourth clash of the season.

The score currently stands at two-one to Austrian School, who put eight and a half lengths on his stable companion in the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh, although Making Miracles comprehensively reversed that form when romping home in the Chester Cup.

Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer to his father, believes the duo will be closely matched in the £50,000 prize this weekend, although he thinks the drop back to one mile and six furlongs will be more in favour of Austrian School.

“I think trip wise, coming back to a mile and six will probably suit Austrian School in particular,” Johnston said.

“I think he has another gear that Making Miracles doesn’t have and maybe just a bit more class and speed – he showed plenty of the latter when he won at Musselburgh.”

Reflecting on his Sandown exploits, Johnston added: “Austrian School has a neck to find with Mekong on that form, but he’s quite versatile regarding ground. I expect him to go well and this is on the way to either the Northumberland Plate or the Curragh Cup at the end of the month.”

A similar programme awaits the strong staying Making Miracles, who had been mooted for a potential tilt at Royal Ascot’s Queen Alexandra Stakes before connections opted to target the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup.

“We know Making Miracles stays very well and he, too, will be going onto the Northumberland Plate,” Johnston added.

“There is some good prize money to be picked up and I hope both of them will be in the shake-up.”

Tomorrow’s £50,000 prize has attracted eight declarations, including Henry II runner-up Mekong, who is trained in Newmarket by Sir Michael Stoute, and Raheen House, who will make his first outing for William Haggas.

Later on the card, Kingsley House is set to saddle top weight Blown By Wind in the £100,000 Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap.

The son of Invincible Spirit chased home fellow progressive three-year-old Awe in a competitive Newmarket contest last Saturday and Johnston is hopeful his colt can make another step of improvement tomorrow.

“We were very pleased with his run at Newmarket and I think time will tell trying to give 11lb to Awe was a big ask,” Johnston said.

“Unusually for one of ours, I think he’ll still come forward again, even from his second run.

“He had a long time off after getting injured in midsummer last year and I think he went to Leicester first time at about 560 kilos – we wouldn’t send many horses to the races that heavy.

“He’s done really well from two to three and he’s a great big brute of a thing now.”

In respect to the return to six furlongs, Johnston added: “Obviously it was seven furlongs last week and James Doyle was very happy with him at that trip. But he did say afterwards he has enough speed to come back to six.”

A maximum field of 22 runners has been assembled for the Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap, the most valuable prize on Macmillan Charity Raceday. First held in 1971, the annual event has raised over £8 million for the charity.

Saturday’s seven-race card is scheduled to get underway at 1.50pm.


DUAL Group 2 winner Sir Dancealot is the star name among five declarations received for the Listed Equinity Technology Ganton Stakes – the feature contest on tomorrow’s intriguing seven-race card at York.

Trained in Newmarket by the evergreen David Elsworth, the five-year-old captured last season’s Lennox Stakes and Hungerford Stakes during a twelve-start campaign that yielded four victories.

Having made a pleasing return to finish midfield in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month, the son of Sir Prancealot is set to make his third start over one mile on the Knavesmire, as long as the rainfall that has affected many part of the UK clears away.

“We’d obviously like to run, but we’ll have to play it by ear with the weather,” Elsworth said.

“He was due to run in the John O’Gaunt Stakes at Haydock last Saturday but we pulled him out as the ground got heavy.”

Reflecting on his reappearance performance, Elsworth added: “He’s been fine after the Lockinge and he’s in good form. Arguably, he could have just needed the run at Newbury but, even so, if he runs as well as he did there at York it will put him on the premises.”

Sir Dancealot has previous experience of the Knavesmire having landed the Listed Rockingham Stakes in 2016, prior to finishing third behind Harry Angel in the Group 2 Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes last season.

Both of those contests were run over six furlongs and Elsworth is considering a return to sprinting with his charge having entered him in the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket.

“We’ve got a second half of the season campaign mapped out for him,” Elsworth said. “He’s in the July Cup and he’s obviously got speed. His trip is not an exact science, but we’ll throw our hat in the ring at York.”

Sir Dancealot will once again be partnered by regular rider Gerald Mosse and Elsworth is unfazed how the race will pan out from a tactical perspective.

He said: “I’ll leave the steering to the jockey, but he settles well and he’s quite an amenable horse – he’s pretty straightforward.”

Rated 115, Sir Dancealot is 3lb clear of his nearest rival on official figures, that being Owen Burrows’ course and distance winner Wadilsafa, who will carry a penalty for his comfortable success in the Listed Fortune Stakes at Sandown last year.

Elsewhere in the £50,000 contest, the consistent Oh This Is Us will make his eighth start of the year for Richard Hannon, while two members of the Classic generation will try to topple their elders.

They are the Andrew Balding-trained Happy Power, who finished close-up behind subsequent Group 3 winner Safe Voyage in the Listed Spring Trophy at Haydock last month, and David Simcock’s Raakib Alhawa.

York’s latest two-day meeting gets underway on Friday afternoon with the first race due off at 1.50pm.

Lexus Melbourne Cup to visit York

York Racecourse and its home city are delighted at the recent announcement by the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) that it will be host to the 17th annual Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour.

York is the only European destination amongst the 39 communities spread over six countries that will host the $200,000 Gold Trophy.

This year holds special significance for Australia’s most iconic trophy, with the VRC celebrating 100 years of the renowned three-handled design.

As part of the Cup Tour’s overseas expedition, the trophy will attend the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival (August 21-24) as well as visiting some of the famous landmarks in the City.

Speaking at the announcement of the schedule, VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott said this year’s Tour will celebrate the appeal of racing and the iconic Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy with more communities than ever before.

“Since the Tour began in 2003, we have delighted in bringing communities together in the shared history and magic of the Melbourne Cup,” Mrs Elliott said.

“This year is especially significant, with 2019 marking the 100th anniversary of the three- handled Melbourne Cup trophy design.”

In response to the news, Chairman of York Racecourse, Lord Grimthorpe said; “We’re extremely honoured and excited to be playing host to the Melbourne Cup. The links between the most famous races at our respective tracks, the Lexus Melbourne Cup and Sky Bet Ebor, grow ever closer and this is a tremendous example of the partnership between the venues”.

Since its beginning, the Tour has travelled more than 600,000 kilometres and visited more than 450 regional, rural and metropolitan destinations. It has provided communities with an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the magic of the Melbourne Cup and hear the many stories connected with Australia’s greatest horse race.