Sir Ron Priestley dominates from the front in Jockey Club Stakes
Second in the 2019 St Leger to Logician, Mark Johnston’s five-year-old entire was forced to miss the whole of 2020 through injury.
He returned to action at Nottingham recently with a good win at Listed level and bounded into an early lead under Franny Norton, where he was tracked by stablemate Thunderous.
Pyledriver – third in last year’s Leger – was sent off the 15-8 joint-favourite along with the winner and emerged as the biggest threat in the closing stages.
Martin Dwyer pulled him out to challenge and he briefly looked like making Sir Ron Priestley fight for it, but when Pyledriver began to run around under pressure, the Johnston raider kicked on again to win by two and a quarter lengths in impressive fashion.
Paddy Power cut the winner into 8-1 from 10s for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot – but another target may be on the agenda at the showpiece fixture.
Assistant trainer Charlie Johnston said: “Given what he did as a three-year-old, and largely because of who his brother (Subjectivist) is, we spent most of the winter thinking he was going to be a Cup horse this year.
“The Further Flight was a stepping-stone to the Yorkshire Cup and the Ascot Gold Cup – that is certainly the plan we had in our heads going to Nottingham.
“The way he travelled and picked up at Nottingham made us think a little bit and off the back of that we made the entry here and in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot.
“Today was a great opportunity to find out what we should be aiming for for the rest of the year.
The Yorkshire Cup and the Hardwicke will be the next two places, I'd have thought
“In a small field on a track like this there were going to be no excuses and we were going to come out of here either knowing he wasn’t good enough at this trip and we were going to have to go back to Plan A of being a stayer, or the result we have had.
“He’s not in the Coronation Cup, which is a slight frustration in hindsight. The Yorkshire Cup and the Hardwicke will be the next two places, I’d have thought.
“This result means that certainly in the short-term he can stay away from his brother. I wouldn’t rule them out meeting at Goodwood further down the line.”
On his injury problems, he added: “He had a suspensory ligament issue in the spring of last year and we were trying to get him back for the Long Distance Cup at Ascot at the backend.
“Then he fractured pelvis around September time. They were two unrelated injuries, but combined, it kept him off the track for over 18 months.
“The next 24 hours are always nerve-racking with a horse with a history like that, so fingers crossed.”