Johnston the man to follow in Queen’s Vase

Mark Johnston Queens Vase Royal Ascot

Mark Johnston

The two-mile Queen’s Vase, the final race on the penultimate day of Royal Ascot, is a grueling contest for three-year-olds only, which has been completely dominated by northern trainer Mark Johnston over the last 15 years during which he has won this prestigious stamina test no less than seven times.

That’s a remarkable statistic, as winning any race at the world’s premier meeting is tough, but to win one event so many times in a relatively short period is astonishing.

This year the Middleham-based handler has two horses entered ahead of the final declaration stage, both of whom should be given plenty of respect.

Queen’s Vase Royal Mark Johnston Contenders

Soldier in Action (16/1) and Beaverbrook (20/1) both need to improve on what they have done so far for the Scottish-born trainer, but it would come as no surprise if they did raise their respective games. There is a very strong suspicion that Soldier in Action will relish the step up to two miles.

One piece of form stands out for this Dansili colt, and that was his run in a Chester handicap in May when he tried to give 7lbs to Red Verdon, and was only caught in the last 100 yards by the horse who went on to be a very unlucky-in-running sixth in the Derby and could be a very smart performer in the making.

In hindsight, Soldier in Action’s task was near impossible, and he probably hasn’t been suited by the drop back to 10 furlongs in his two most recent runs. He looks a fascinating contender and should be given plenty of respect.

Beaverbrook has a touch of class but looks a far less likely stayer having run a fine fourth over six furlongs in last year’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes, won by his stable companion Buratino. He has only run beyond a mile a couple of times and appeared not to stay, so it is hard to be too enthusiastic about his chance but his trainer knows what he is looking for in a horse capable of winning this race.

Value Bets

Queens Vase Royal Ascot

Dermot Weld, who sent out Harzand to win the Epsom Derby recently, has an interesting contender in Ebediyin (5/1), a Raven’s Pass colt who showed improved form when stepped up to 12 furlongs last time at Naas where he scored comfortably. He shapes like a stayer and will bid to give his handler a second winner in the Queen’s Vase, 20 years on from the success of the yard’s only other scorer, Gordi, back in 1996.

Andrew Balding’s Ormito (6/1) looks to have been crying out for a longer trip and will get the extra five furlongs judged on his two staying-on efforts at Chester and Goodwood this spring. He is very stoutly bred on his dam’s side.

John Gosden’s Muntahaa (7/1) is also engaged in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes and is held in some regard by connections. He won in style in maiden company last time and would be very much the dark horse of the race if he does line up for this instead of the higher grade 12 furlong event earlier in the day.

The shortest-priced of a handful of Aidan O’Brien representatives are Kellstorm and The Major General. Kellstorm (7/1) was comfortably beaten two lengths by Ebediyin at Naas and needs to improve on that display, but The Major General (8/1), although closely related to a number of good winners at around a mile, appears to shape as though he has plenty of stamina and won in good style in listed company at Leopardstown earlier this month over 12 furlongs.

Jockey bookings will likely indicate which horse is most fancied by the Ballydoyle handler with Ryan Moore’s selected mount sure to attract plenty of interest. It may well be The Major General, but then again….

In the News

[1] eurosport.com, Preview of Royal Ascot, 2016