Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 16 December 2017

Dundalk delight for Johnston

Thomas Kelly

Mark Johnston was full of praise for Dundalk after saddling Below Zero to success in the valuable Bar One Racing Handicap yesterday.

The Yorkshire trainer Johnston has a fine record at the Co Louth all-weather venue, but was making his first visit in person.

Making the most of a good draw in stall three, Fran Berry soon grabbed the rail to blaze a trail in the six-furlong event and after 4/1 favourite The Reaper followed him into the straight, Below Zero (15/2) streaked clear to oblige by four lengths.

Johnston said: "It's the first time I've been here myself and I'll definitely come back. I'm very impressed. It's a lovely track and a real nice track for viewing.

"You'll definitely be seeing more horses of mine here now I've seen the place. The prize money is so bad at home."

He added of the winner: "This horse has been a little bit in and out and he needs things to go his own way. He had a good draw and pinged out. He's hard to peg back from the front."

Johnston had contrasting fortunes with his other runner as Oceanway finished last in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF August Handicap behind the Aidan O'Brien-trained Jackaroo.

The winner swept past long-time leader Elusive Ridge as the leaders entered the final furlong and just got the better of a duel with the top-weight Northgate by a head in the hands of the trainer's son Joseph.

Johnny Murtagh and Ger Lyons recorded a double, beginning with Disagree (3/1), which was smartly away in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Auction Maiden and shrugged off market rival Bogini to win by a length and three-quarters.

They then combined to land the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden with Jemima's Pearl (4/1), which led all the way and stayed on stoutly to score by two and a half lengths from Mahaazen.

Meanwhile, Paul Hanagan was a happy man after guiding Rose Blossom to a deserved Listed-race success at Pontefract.

Few in training have as much early speed as Richard Fahey's four-year-old, but she has been hard to win with, albeit invariably keeping very smart company.

Her last success had come over this trip of six furlongs at York in July last year, and she made the most of an uncontested lead on this occasion, seeing her race out well to beat Darajaat by a length and a quarter.

Favourite Dever Dream was the hard-luck story, being short of room when looking poised to throw down a strong challenge and having to settle for fourth, just behind the Kieren Fallon-ridden Desert Poppy.

Fahey and Hanagan recorded a swift double as Polar Kite got up close home for a narrow victory, giving the champion jockey his 104th success of the campaign.

Tom Queally, out of luck on Rimth in the feature race, ensured it was not a wasted journey to West Yorkshire as Last Sovereign (11/1) made most for the Ollie Pears yard.

Irish Independent

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