22 February 2023

Subjectivist ready for high-profile Saudi Cup card return

22 February 2023

Charlie Johnston is used to injuries. A red baseball cap helped shield this bruised and cut left eyebrow as he watched Subjectivist stretch his legs ahead of sunrise at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Wednesday.

His own injury was sustained by the rigours of playing for rugby for Wensleydale. He suffered similar scarring last year. “One day, I’ll learn,” quipped the 32-year-old.

There is no hiding for Subjectivist, however. The injury sustained by this glorious stayer was far more extreme.

He will make his comeback in Saturday’s Group Three Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap, having been off the track since cantering all over his rivals in the 2021 Ascot Gold Cup.

Horses like him don't come around very often. It was getting to that point where you don't really care about the opposition.

The son of Teofilo will take on 12 rivals, including the John and Thady Gosden-trained Ebor winner Trawlerman, Ian Williams’ Meydan handicap hero Enemy, Karl Burke’s Prix Chaudenay scorer Al Qareem and Nate The Great from the Andrew Balding yard in the one-mile-seven-furlong contest.

Johnston’s relief that the yard’s latest superstar looked plenty fit enough for his return was palpable.

“It has been a very long road, 20 months since this horse saw the racecourse,” said Johnston.

“It has been a long journey for the team and one where we’ve trodden on egg-shells for the most of it.

“So, to see him back in this kind of environment is fantastic.”

He added: “Horses like him don’t come around very often. It was getting to that point where you don’t really care about the opposition.”

Subjectivist had excelled in the Middle East when winning the Dubai Gold Cup en route to his Ascot victory, yet misfortune befell him after beating the likes of Princess Zoe, Spanish Mission and Stradivarius at Ascot.

“About two weeks after the Ascot Gold Cup, he had an injury to his superficial flexor tendon – an injury which can be career-ending, basically – and to get horses back is no given,” added Johnston.

“We had the best stayer in the world and it was just a case of getting him on his ‘A game’.

“We left Ascot with Goodwood, Ascot, France, Dubai, Saudi (in mind) – you were just picking the races you wanted to win.

“To have that and to lose it was a huge blow to the yard. We are just hoping we can have him back to somewhere near his former glory.”

Nine months on a water-walker, a summer in the field and brought along slowly since he returned to work in September, including a pleasing piece of work at Newcastle two weeks ago, have primed Subjectivist for his first start in 618 days.

After flexing his muscles on the turf, Johnston hopes he can answer the $2.5million question under Joe Fanning, who himself has had to overcome a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we were ready,” Johnston added. “But at the same time any prep is difficult, but in particular in a situation when when you come back from such a serious injury.

“We took him to Newcastle and that was a pretty serious workout. That was the key point, to feel he was in shape to be ready to come here.

“What he did here today was to see him stretch his legs, see that he is fit and well and that he has taken the journey OK.

“The hard work has been done at home and now it is a case of keeping him wrapped up until Saturday.

“It is very much one day at a time with this horse. Every morning he canters up the gallop, he goes into his box and we check that his leg is still OK.

“I’ve barely allowed myself to think about Saturday, never mind think beyond Saturday.”

The yard have a rich history with stayers such as Double Trigger and Royal Rebel, yet Subjectivist could quickly help the young handler emerge from the long shadow of his father, Mark, having recently taken over the licence.

“The only horses that he has mentioned in the same breath as Subjectivist are Attraction and Shamardal, because they are the three horses where we don’t care about the opposition,” said the trainer.

“These horses were just better than anything else and it was just a case of getting them there on their A-game.

“This horse has suffered a serious injury and it is a serious ask to get him back to that level. We have done everything we can and we will find out on Saturday.

“He has worked a mile and a half round Newcastle. We haven’t worked him over the distance he’s going to run over, we haven’t put him into the red zone and we wouldn’t do that for any horse, but in particular a horse like this coming back from injury.

“Yet any of those three last runs in France, Dubai or Ascot is way ahead of what anything else in the field has achieved and it is just a case of how close to that level can we get a horse back after a tendon injury. It is a big ask, but we have done everything we can.

“We have had a runner in this race in all four renewals, so we are well used to it now. The ground tends to be quick.

“Again, that is a variable that doesn’t matter to us with this horse. He won in a swamp in France and on very quick ground out in Dubai. It is a beautiful track. It is fairly tight on the turf track but again, that should suit a horse like him – he’s not a slow horse by any stretch.

“Everything should suit him, really.”

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