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Johnson Houghton optimistic Scarlet Dragon can fire

Scarlet Dragon: three-year-old will be ridden by Jim Crowley next week
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Scarlet Dragon, who started 2016 off a mark of 79, has a leading chance of capping the year on a high in next week's Qatar Derby, trainer Eve Johnson Houghton said on Monday.

Owned by a syndicate led by Henry Ponsonby, Scarlet Dragon won four times during the campaign, which he ended rated 109.

That has tempted organisers of the $500,000 Qatar Derby to invite him for the ten-furlong contest a week on Thursday.

"He seems in great form," said Johnson Houghton, whose stable star will travel on Thursday with assistant trainer Derek Byrne and groom Nynke Schilder.

"He had a holiday at the end of the season and has come back great. He had a good four weeks turned out and is spot on now.

"I can't see why conditions out there won't suit him. He doesn't seem to mind the ground and he's won on soft and good. He'll like the flat track and we're going out there fully expecting conditions to suit.

"I saw the original entries and it looked like he was third from the top on ratings, but haven't seen what's likely to run. You have to think he'd have a really good chance."

Scarlet Dragon, the mount of Jim Crowley, could face German raiders Noble House and Noor Al Hawa, but the Richard Hannon-trained Steel Of Madrid, who was due to be ridden by Sean Levey, will not line up.

Qatar's two-day meeting also hosts the $100,000 Al Rayyan Stakes a week on Wednesday, for which Mark Johnston has entered three-time winner Masham Star.

He'll like the flat track and we're going out there fully expecting conditions to suit
E.W. Terms