Classic hopes for Charlie Johnston in first solo season


Charlie Johnston, a young trainer in his first season with a license, is thrilled to have a runner in both Guineas races. Dubai Mile, a chestnut with a big white face, won a Group 1 at the end of October, making him an exciting prospect for Johnston’s Kingsley House. Dubai Mile is among the best in his class, though he may not be the sexiest horse in the lineup for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. Regardless, he belongs in the best company and his toughness may work in his favour.

Dubai Mile won the Criterium de Saint-Cloud after a long battle with Arrest, the Gosden-trained favourite. He had previously shown similar qualities when he finished second of four in the Royal Lodge. While he may not be the favourite, being in the running gives him a chance to do the double. Other horses, like New Approach, Masar, Australia, Sir Percy, and Generous, have been placed in the Guineas before winning at Epsom.

“He galloped on the Wednesday of the Craven meeting before racing and I was very pleased with how that went. It was to give the horse a day out, given that he was going to go into a Group 1 first time out, and a chance for Danny [Muscutt] to sit on the horse again. And to spark a discussion amongst ourselves about what direction we were going with the horse in the early part of the season.

“He’s a Group 1-winning two-year-old. Running into a place in the Guineas would make him a more valuable proposition as a stallion.

“Obviously, he’s run very well in a Royal Lodge over the course and distance. He handles the track very well and we know you have to stay well to win a Guineas.

“Do we think he’s a miler? No. We think he’s going to come into his own when he steps up in trip but this is the best starting point for his year.

“We go there hopeful rather than confident, hoping to see him run a nice trial for Epsom and if he can stay on into the frame, that would be fantastic.”

Dubai Mile may also be better suited to the Epsom Classics a month later. Johnston is hoping for rain clouds to turn up over the Rowley Mile this week, as they are forecast to do at several stages. Dubai Mile has had a quiet and smooth winter with no setbacks, and he looks like a stronger model now.

Dance In The Grass is Johnston’s entrant for Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas. She was impressive in her first two starts, but was a disappointment in very testing ground in the May Hill. Johnston admitted that in hindsight, he probably should have pulled up stumps at that point, but they had one more go in the Rockfel. While Dance In The Grass may not be the favourite, being in the running gives her a chance to win.

How has his winter been? “Very quiet and smooth, no setbacks at all. He is slightly bigger, a stronger horse this year. He’s probably going to go into the Guineas only about 10kg heavier than he was going to Saint-Cloud but that’s quite appreciable to look at the horse. He looks a stronger model now.”

Johnston’s entrant in Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas is Dance In The Grass. “She was very impressive in her first two starts. The wheels came off a little bit when she was a short price for the May Hill and was disappointing that day in very testing ground. In hindsight, we probably should have pulled up stumps at that point but we had one more go in the Rockfel.

“She’s tall and was quite an immature two-year-old and that was a bit much for her. She’ll be better equipped for that kind of level this year. Again, we would assume she would benefit from going further in due course but her owner is keen to roll the dice in the Guineas as the starting point for her season.”

And Johnston has other Epsom possibles besides these two. “Hadrianus ran a great race in the Blue Riband. He’s another good trial run away from being in the Epsom picture.

Dear My Friend will go to the Dante with the Middleham Park team dreaming of the Derby as well. To have a number of horses for these kind of races in my first season is fantastic. Just need to try and win one of them now…” 

Johnston’s first season as a trainer with a license in his name is looking up, as he has runners in both Guineas races. This is an exciting prospect for any young trainer, and Johnston is thrilled to be a part of it.

“I think we would both say that things have changed, probably a bit more than we maybe expected. The reality is now, with my name above the door, more people want to speak to me and I have to be the face of the business, going forward.

“Albeit the work behind the scenes is much the same as it was last year, there certainly feels a bit of added accountability for me in terms of the outcomes on the track and possibly there will naturally be a bit more scrutiny of our results this year. So it’s important we have a good year.

“I joked last year that, when things went well, I got 50 per cent of the credit and when things went badly I got all of the blame. Maybe my increment of the credit has gone up a bit.

“I’m sure he won’t be walking off into the sunset but him and Mum are taking a bit more time off, which is great for them. Over the last 30 years, when they took any time off the phone still rang every ten minutes, but now they actually get a chance to enjoy it.”



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