Universal (far): performed best of Mark Johnston's runner at Royal AscotPICTURE: Getty Images
Johnston aims to banish Ascot flop with Universal
IT was a Royal Ascot to forget for Mark Johnston with no winners and the leading trainer will be hoping to get off to a strong start at the July festival with Universal lining up in the Princess of Wales's Stakes (2.40).
Universal proved to be the best of Johnston's runners at Ascot, rallying to regain third on the line in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes having initially faded out of contention in the home straight.
The improving four-year-old faces six rivals on the July course and connections are confident of a bold showing.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: "He has got a Group 2 penalty but I think a mile and a half on really fast ground will suit him and on the form he's shown this season he's the best horse in the race and the one they've got to beat."
The Princess of Wales's Stakes is one of two highlights on the opening day of the July festival alongside the Group 2 Portland Place Properties July Stakes featuring Coventry third Sir John Hawkins.
Als well as racing at Newmarket on Thursday, there is racing from Epsom, Doncaster, Warwick, Leopardstown and Bath.
Today's key pointer
Mickael Barzalona is 10-31 when riding Godolphin two-year-olds on the July course at Newmarket in the last three seasons, for a level-stakes profit of £30.12 to £1 stakes.
He rides Figure of Speech for Saeed bin Suroor in the Group 2 July Stakes at 2.10.
Pointers courtesy of Raceform Interactive
Bath - firm
Doncaster - good to firm
Epsom - good to firm
Newmarket - good to firm
Leopardstown - good to firm
Warwick - good to firm