Drama delivers for Balding and Bryan at York
Johnny Drama pulled off a hard-fought victory in the John Smith’s Cup for in-form trainer Andrew Balding and young jockey Joshua Bryan at York
Apprentice Bryan, riding by far the biggest winner of his career, had 22-1 shot Johnny Drama up with the pace from the outset and stayed on best in the final strides to get the better of long-time leader Cockalorum.
Balding, who won this major handicap with Pivoine two years ago, is enjoying an outstanding season and was following up big-race success with Sandrine in Newmarket’s Duchess of Cambridge Stakes 24 hours earlier.
Johnny Drama was a prolific winner on all-weather surfaces last winter, having also twice been successful on turf in Ireland two years ago.
He began his career by finishing seventh to Cockalorum in a Leopardstown maiden three years ago – and it was that same rival, sent off at 40-1 this time, who got closest to him again.
But Balding’s six-year-old, running for the first time since finishing last of five in the Winter Derby at Lingfield in February, proved strongest by just a head – with Strait Of Hormuz and Dawaam a nose and two lengths further back in third and fourth respectively.
Bryan said: “That was amazing, Johnny Drama is a gutsy horse.
“He can be a bit slow out of the gates, but he pinged the lids today and we got a lovely position.
“I got a lovely run up and I thought I had the leader on my right beat, the horse on my inside came late on and he only won because he tries so hard and he put his head down.
“I’ve been there (at Balding’s) since I was 16 as an apprentice, I’m 21 now and I lost my claim in March so that’s a great way to start.
“I’ve had a couple of rides here, I actually won a pony race here back when I was 15 but I don’t think that really counts, you don’t get the same prize money!”
There was a sad postscript to the race when it was confirmed that Surrey Pride, pulled up two furlongs out, suffered a fatal injury.