GBI RACING

Johnston expecting Vintage performance from Visinari

Visinari (centre) is expected to bounce back from his defeat at Newmarket

Mark Johnston is confident Visinari can provide him with a fifth victory in the Qatar Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, after blaming himself for the exciting colt’s defeat at Newmarket last week.

The grey created a huge impression when making a successful racecourse debut on the July course last month – making every yard of the running in a fast time to leave the experts purring.

He was unsurprisingly a warm order to follow up on his return to Headquarters for the July Stakes, but ultimately had to make do with minor honours in third – after which Johnston was left ruing the decision not to step his charge up in trip.

Visinari will get the chance to put that right in the seven-furlong Vintage Stakes on the opening day of Glorious Goodwood.

Johnston said: “I was kicking myself that we ran him (in the July Stakes). We’d had a debate beforehand and we were probably influenced by all this talk of times and stride lengths.

“He made all in his novice race and never really looked like not winning, but the really simplistic thing to ask is, ‘would he have done better if he’d gone further?’, and he absolutely would have.

“A furlong out he was about a neck in front and at the line he was three and a half lengths in front and going away. Everything said we should step him up to seven furlongs, but we didn’t, so I made a mistake and the horse got beaten as a result.

“I hope we won’t make the same mistake twice and it will be a different horse over seven.”

Johnston has previously won the Vintage Stakes with subsequent 2000 Guineas hero Mister Baileys (1993), Lucky Story (2003), the brilliant Shamardal (2004) and last year’s winner Dark Vision.

He added: “It’s been a really important race for us and I had that in my mind as soon as Visinari won the novice race.

“We got greedy and thought we could take in another Group Two on the way, and we didn’t, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s our number one two-year-old going to the meeting.”

Despite training the best part of 300 miles further north, Johnston has become one of the go-to men at Goodwood over the last couple of decades – saddling 78 winners at Glorious Gooodwood and 147 across all meetings at the Sussex venue.

He has captured the showpiece fixture’s top trainer award 12 times, including in four of the last five years – but insists there is no secret to his success at the track.

“I could say it’s because I’ve found out what type of horse to run at Goodwood, but that’s not really true, as I’ll run any horse and every horse at Goodwood,” said Johnston.

“I think we generally do quite well at complicated tracks because we don’t complicate them. We do very well at Epsom as well and I think it’s very simple – if you don’t run your horses there they don’t win, and most people don’t run them at these tracks.”

With the big meeting still a couple of weeks away, Johnston has not yet finalised the squad he will take to Goodwood this year, but said: “Goodwood and Ascot are the only two meetings where we do a spreadsheet in advance – pencilling in all the possible horses.

“The fact that we’re having such a good run and so many horses are running well has actually made it more difficult to focus on a specific team for Goodwood this year.

“We’re not holding any horses back, so it’s difficult to say which horses will be running, but I think we can assume the team will be strong.”

Dark Vision on the gallops on Wednesday morning
Dark Vision on the gallops on Wednesday morning (Hannah Ali Photography)

While Visinari and Goodwood Cup candidate Dee Ex Bee will be Johnston’s headline acts, there are plenty of other horses for whom he holds high hopes, including the aforementioned Dark Vision.

The son of Dream Ahead has never fulfilled the promise of his hugely impressive success of last summer, but ran his best race for a while at Newmarket last week and Goodwood’s Unibet Golden Mile is a likely next port of call.

Johnston said: “On the one hand we’ve got a horse that you could say has been disappointing, but on the other hand we’ve gone from a horse that was a bit precious and you didn’t want to run too often to a horse that we’ve now just got to get on and race.

“There’s no doubt the Vintage he won wasn’t the strongest renewal. The thing that was so exciting was the style of it.

“I think he’ll be better for a bit of racing. He has definitely made some of his own trouble, so we think maybe some headgear would sharpen him up and make it easier for the jockey.”

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