'There's nothing in there that would scare me' - Johnston's belief in Dubai Mile growing as Derby nears

Work rider Emma Bedford on Dubai Mile
Work-rider Emma Bedford on Dubai Mile Credit: David Carr

Charlie Johnston has warned that Dubai Mile has a better chance in the Betfred Derby than his odds might suggest, and said: "There's nothing in there that would scare me."

He has had Epsom firmly in mind for the colt since his win in the Group 1 Grand Criterium de Saint-Cloud last autumn and is confident the 2,000 Guineas fifth will improve for a step up to 1m4f.

The trainer, who took over from his father Mark as sole licence-holder at Kingsley House this year, said: "There's no horse in this race that we're going there knowing it's better than us. On official ratings, Timeform ratings and Racing Post Ratings we're right there at the top of the tree. We're a Group 1 winner who ran a very good trial over an inadequate trip in the Guineas. 

"In that sense we've got a pretty rock-solid profile. The fact we're a €20,000 yearling and a bit more unfashionable is probably why we're 14-1 or 16-1 rather than 4-1 or 6-1. 

"But there's nothing in there that would scare me. There's nothing in there that we know we have 7lb or 10lb to find with. If he makes any improvement for the trip, which we all expect he will, then he goes there with a good chance."

Dubai Mile won the Criterium de Saint-Cloud by a head from Arrest, who is a leading fancy for the Derby after his reappearance success in the Chester Vase.

Johnston said: "He's about a quarter of the price that we are – that probably doesn't surprise as John Gosden has got a lot stronger record in the race than I do! But the forecast means it should be a good to firm ground Derby, there's no rain forecast for the next 12 days. I'm sure Arrest's camp are a lot more worried about that than we are, and that might go for a few towards the head of the market. 

"We won our Group 1 on heavy ground, but we're very relaxed about whatever ground the day brings."

Johnston pointed to the Jessica Harrington-trained Leopardstown Derby Trial winner Sprewell as a likely serious contender, and said: "I'd have a lot of respect for him, he's probably the most overlooked one in the market. 

"Aidan O'Brien doesn't get beaten in that trial and if you have beaten him then you must have a good one."

Dubai Mile was beaten just over five lengths behind Chaldean in the Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago, and Johnston reflected: "I said beforehand if he finished in the first six and hit the line strong I would be delighted and that was exactly what the horse did. 

"For a horse going there knowing the trip was below his optimum, he ran a perfect trial."

Charlie Johnston: "
Charlie Johnston: "We've got a pretty rock-solid profile"Credit: Edward Whitaker (

Daniel Muscutt, who has ridden Dubai Mile in every race since winning a maiden on him at Windsor last August, will be having his first ride in the Derby on Saturday week.

However, Mickael Barzalona, Padraig Beggy and Emmet McNamara have all won it at the first attempt in the last 12 years, and Johnston said: "Confidence is the most important factor when it comes to jockeys and without a shadow of doubt Daniel will have more confidence in this horse than anyone else we could get to ride him. His inexperience in a Derby doesn't concern me."

Animal rights protesters, who delayed the start of the Grand National last month, have warned they have another demonstration planned at Epsom.

Johnston said: "We're all going in with trepidation, wondering what the day itself is going to bring. It's a concern for Epsom and horseracing. But this is a very relaxed horse who has been to lots of different tracks and to different countries, and he takes everything in his stride. 

"Any delay and disruption will be an inconvenience for all horses, but he's not a horse that I'd be thinking it was the end of the world if they were stood down at the start for 15 or 20 minutes."

Read more here

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David CarrReporter
Published on 25 May 2023Last updated 09:00, 25 May 2023