Flat Trainer: Mark Johnston (click to see all current entries)
Middleham trainer Mark Johnston has one of the busiest yards in Britain and as a result he’s never going to have the sort of winners-to-runners strike-rate that really catch the eye. However, he is currently operating at 17% - his best since 2015 – and with 61% of his horses running to form. Interestingly, as the illustration below shows, Johnston’s horses perform much better on decent ground.
Selecting the most interesting of the yard’s Monday and Tuesday entries is an unenviable task, but On A May Day looks an obvious contender having resumed her progress at Wolverhampton last time. Aclimatise is being kept busy and the recent Carlisle winner is interesting if pitching up early in the week, while the hat-trick seeking Burgonet continues to improve with racing and this likeable sort will take some stopping at Sandown on Thursday. Looking further ahead, Addicted To You showed much improved form to resume winning ways after 10 months off at Chelmsford last time and has an entry in the Northumberland Plate at the end of the month.
Jumps Trainer: Tom Lacey
After a run of second places with Jester Jet, Silk Run and Polydora, Tom Lacey will have been relieved to see Sword of Fate comfortably win a match-race at Southwell on his chasing debut, thus earning Lacey his first win of the 2018/19 season. Sword of Fate is entered at the same venue on Tuesday – albeit over hurdles – and is handicapped to win again, able to race off the same BHA mark of 120 as when successful last time. He’s still relatively unexposed and is entitled to do better. While bare figures suggest Lacey has had a slow start, his horses have actually been running well – see graph below.
Perth runner-up Silk Run is also engaged at Southwell (as well as Newton Abbot on Monday), while David John has a choice of engagements at Bangor on Tuesday and should be seen to better effect than when floundering in the mud at Exeter when last seen in November.
Under The Radar: Sir Michael Stoute
Though the three-year-olds Braemar, Gabr and Moqarrar have all produced career-best efforts in defeat, the visored-first-time Beachwalk proved a different proposition with a run behind him when winning at Lingfield last time, proving a long way ahead of his mark. He is capable of following up, with further progress on the cards now on the right path, and is entered at Yarmouth on Thursday. While those classic-season horses have been in good form, Sir Michael Stoute is more renowned for his exploits with older horses, as the graph below illustrates.
It’s not long until Royal Ascot, and the very progressive four-year-old Crystal Ocean is one to keep an eye out for. He was better than ever when winning the Aston Park Stakes at Newbury last time by six lengths from Second Step and looks a top-class colt in the making. Last year’s Irish Champion Stakes and Champion Stakes runner-up Poet’s Word is also on target for the same meeting after landing the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown last time; both horses have Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Hardwicke Stakes entries.