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St Leger second Sir Ron Priestley back with a bang with Listed win

Franny Norton looks round for dangers on Further Flight Stakes scorer Sir Ron Priestley
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Mark Johnston is famous for training stayers and his ranks were further boosted by an impressive winning return for 2019 St Leger runner-up Sir Ron Priestley in the Listed Further Flight Stakes..

Sir Ron Priestley, owned by Paul Dean, had been out of action since his Doncaster Classic second to Logician but showed his ability is well intact when making all for a length and a half success over Ocean Wind under Franny Norton in the 1m6f event.

Add in Sir Ron Priestley’s half-brother Subjectivist, who may well head straight to the Ascot Gold Cup after his Dubai Gold Cup triumph, and last year’s second Nayef Road, who will bid to defend his Sagaro Stakes crown at Ascot, and Johnston is looking well stocked in the division.

Sir Ron Priestley: has not raced since finishing behind Logician in the 2019 St Leger

The Jockey Club Stakes and Yorkshire Cup are options for Sir Ron Priestley, and Charlie Johnston, son and assistant to Mark, said: “He seemed in great order but he was very heavy compared to when he ran in the St Leger 18 months ago, so we’re over the moon.

“I’m sure he would stay the Ascot Gold Cup trip as he has such a phenomenal attitude and his last furlong was his best furlong, but I don’t think he needs extreme distances to run at the top level.

“It sets up a very exciting summer and it’s a division that’s always been close to mum and dad’s hearts.”

Johnston and Norton sealed a double in the 1m2f handicap with the William Johnstone-owned Annandale.

Bargain Bay

Owners Scuderia Blueberry SRL bought subsequent Beverly D Stakes winner Euro Charline for 13,000gns in 2012 and 800gns purchase Atalis Bay is proving another bargain buy after a fourth win from seven starts in the 5f conditions stakes.

The Marco Botti-trained colt demonstrated a fine attitude to score by a length and a quarter on his first start at three.

Alberto Baragiola, who has worked for Botti since 2013 and became assistant last year, said: “We’re very happy with him and a little surprised as it looked a tough race, but he did everything right.

“The owners, who are breeders too, had great days with Euro Charline and it’s not the only time they've found value like this.”

Recipe for success

Gavin Ashton’s Twitter bio reads apprentice, chef at The Kentford pub near Newmarket, qualified personal trainer and failed footballer, and the multi-talented rider steered his first winner for new boss Roger Varian on Batraan in the 5f handicap.

Batraan: Gavin Ashton's first winner for new boss Roger Varian

Ashton, who joined Varian in December, said: “Roger’s is an unbelievable place to work and I’m so grateful for his support. I can't thank him enough."

On the cooking front, he added: “The Kentford reopens next Thursday and if I’m not riding I’ll be sweating in the kitchen!”

In-form yard

The 1m½f novice scorer Mashhoor and 1m½f handicap winner Astro King, both ridden by Richard Kingscote, boosted the fine form of Sir Michael Stoute, who saddled five winners from his last ten runners prior to Wednesday’s evening racing.

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It sets up a very exciting summer and it’s a division that’s always been close to mum and dad’s hearts
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