Mark Johnston: Dark Vision was so incredible that I can't stop watching the race
When a man on the verge of becoming the winningmost trainer in British racing history takes the time to watch a race over and over again you know he must think the horse in focus is pretty special.
Nearly a week after the event, Mark Johnston is still blown away by the remarkable performance Dark Vision put up to win the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood and is eyeing an immediate step up to Group 1 company for the unbeaten two-year-old.
The colt came from a seemingly impossible position to win going away under Silvestre de Sousa, and the trainer admitted on Monday that he has watched the replay more often than any race since Mister Baileys gave him a first Classic victory in the 2,000 Guineas in 1994.
"It was an incredible performance, that's why I keep watching it again," said Johnston, who was crowned top trainer at Glorious Goodwood for the 12th time last week.
"It was so surprising that we're all looking for reasons. Was it faster up the middle? Was it the pace of the race? But when you watch it again, the third horse [Confiding] came up the middle and from the back, the same as Dark Vision. But Dark Vision has come from two or three lengths behind and swept past while it is making its run. No matter how you look at it, it was just an exceptional performance."
Impressive two-year-old performances can sometimes turn out too good to be true and Johnston said: "I don't make our geese into swans and that's why I keep looking at it again.
"If you look at the way the horse passes the line, he's hardly turned a hair. He didn't look to have a hard race and he came from a completely impossible position. He lost 10kg, which is just average for a race, and he's already started putting it back on.
"We put him in at the second entry stage for the National Stakes [at the Curragh] and I'd think you're most likely to see him next in that or the Dewhurst, or both."
Not all smart juveniles prove as good at three but Johnston is confident Dark Vision has the size and physical scope to train on, saying: "For sure, you'd say he's a big backward baby of a horse."
Johnston makes no secret of the fact that he aims good two-year-olds at the Vintage and his three previous winners, Mister Baileys, Lucky Story and Shamardal, all proved high-class horses.
"Two were Group 1 winners and the other was the champion three-year-old miler," he said. "I always think of the race as a top-class mid-season trial."
Dark Vision, owned by the Kingsley Park 10 partnership, is a general 16-1 shot for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, but even before his next run his trainer is very likely to have set a sensational new landmark for he is just a few winners short of surpassing Richard Hannon snr as the all-time leading trainer in Britain.
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