Runner-up to Logician in the 2019 St Leger at Doncaster, Mark Johnston’s charge has since returned from over a year and a half on the sidelines looking better than ever – winning the Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham and the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket.
The five-year-old is the clear favourite to complete his hat-trick on the Knavesmire under Franny Norton.
Johnston also saddles Nayef Road, who has been placed behind champion stayer Stradivarius in three of his last four starts, most recently when third in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot a couple of weeks ago.
“We are very strong in the staying department and we did think that Sir Ron Priestley, Nayef Road and Subjectivist might all meet in the Gold Cup, but that’s now looking very unlikely, as Sir Ron Priestley probably won’t go that far," Johnston said ahead of a race that forms paert of the QIPCO British Champions Series Long Distance category.
“As a three-year-old he was always working like a distance horse, and his last run was in the St Leger, but it’s great to see him demonstrating so much speed now that he is back and his next runs after the Yorkshire Cup are quite likely to be at a mile and a half, with the Hardwicke Stakes a probable next target.”
Johnston has taken great delight in Sir Ron Priestley’s two wins this spring.
He said: “It’s been very satisfying getting Sir Ron Priestley back in such good form after missing last year. The races he’s won this spring at Nottingham and Newmarket weren’t St Legers, but at the same time he’s given the impression he’s in the form of his life and he’s certainly rated higher than ever.”
He added: “He had a suspensory injury, and any tendon or ligament injury is a concern as they can always flare back up again, but it looks really good. He had quite a long time off and then when he was coming back he had a pelvic fracture, which is very common with horses coming back from a long lay-off, but that’s of no concern now.
“He was very heavy when he went to Nottingham and he’s probably always going to race heavier than he did as a three-year-old, but the weight is coming off him now and we are very, very happy with his wellbeing.”
At the start of the week Johnston was expecting to save Nayef Road for another day, while saying that “Sir Ron Priestley was always our ace here”. However, he warned he might have a rethink if the field cut up, and Nayef Road takes his chance.
He said: “Nayef Road is in good enough form too and ran really well in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot, and it’s just a case of finding the best spots for all three horses. Like Dee Ex Bee before him, Nayef Road would have a lot more to show for his efforts if it wasn’t for Stradivarius, as they both finished second to him in the Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup.”
Franny Norton maintains his partnership with Sir Ron Priestley, while Ben Curtis is on board Nayef Road, as he was in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot last month.
Aidan O’Brien, who came closest to winning a Yorkshire Cup when Southern France gave Stradivarius quite a fright when the race was last run in 2019, saddles last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby hero Santiago, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore.
Santiago followed his head defeat of stable-mate Tiger Moth at The Curragh with solid efforts in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup, where he was third behind Stradivarius, and the Cazoo St Leger, where he was a close fourth behind Galileo Chrome. However, he needs to put behind him a reappearance odds-on fourth in the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan if he is to trouble Sir Ron Priestley.
Andrew Balding, another who is seeking a first Yorkshire Cup success, saddles last year’s Group Two Doncaster Cup winner Spanish Mission, who will be making his first appearance of the year on home soil after respectable efforts in defeat in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. William Buick, who rode Spanish Mission at Doncaster, is back on board
Tim Easterby is looking forward to getting his six-year-old Wells Farhh Go back on the track after an absence of more than a year and a half, and he reports him in great form.
He said: "He struck into both of his heels and got a crack down a hoof in the Cumberland Lodge at Ascot two years ago. We were going to run him towards the end of last year but he wasn't quite ready and so we didn't bother.
"My son William rides him out every day and he's fresh and well and in very good form. We are going to run him without shoes behind as he's such an extravagant mover and he's done it before."
A field of eight has been assembled for the Oak Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes, where much interest will surround the Richard Hannon-trained Snow Lantern.
The Frankel filly is a daughter of the stable’s Classic-winning Sky Lantern and looked the part on her reappearance at Newbury last month.
Roger Charlton’s Nell Gwyn third Love Is You features among the opposition, as does the Charlie Appleby-trained Creative Flair.
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