Johnston has a strong hand of juveniles

Cardsharp winning the G2 July Stakes at Newmarket last month. Photo:

Cardsharp heads a strong hand of juveniles set to compete at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival for trainer Mark Johnston.

Cardsharp, winner of the G2 July Stakes at Newmarket, is being targeted at the £225,000 Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes on the final day of four, Saturday. The son of Lonhro has won three times this season, as well as finishing third in both the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and  the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood.

Connections were disappointed with that last effort but feel they can put it down to the soft underfoot conditions. Charlie Johnston, son and assistant to trainer Mark, said: “He was under strong consideration for the Group 1 Prix Morny this weekend but we have decided to go to York instead.

“He didn’t show his true running at Goodwood and at this stage we are putting it down to the soft ground. At Newmarket when he won, he hit the line very strongly whereas at Goodwood he travelled like the best horse in the race but couldn’t quicken. Hopefully it was because of the ground and he will show his best on Saturday.

“He has to carry a penalty again but horses who have a penalty have a good record in the race and he goes there in good shape.”

Cardsharp carries the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, who also owns Threading and Dee Ex Bee, two juveniles who are out to defend unbeaten records at York this week.

Threading could hardly have been more impressive when winning a Goodwood fillies’ maiden by six lengths on debut and she is due to step up in grade for the G2 Sky Bet Lowther Stakes on Thursday.

Johnston said: “Threading was supplemented for the Lowther at a cost of £15,000 last Friday. It is obviously a big step up but she was very impressive at Goodwood. Not many fillies win a Glorious Goodwood maiden by six lengths. She is a filly we have always liked and we feel she is up to being competitive at this grade. It looks a wide-open Lowther and one we feel she has a chance of running very well in.”

Dee Ex Bee has a similar profile to stablemate Threading in that he too won a Goodwood maiden in smart fashion on debut. He has been declared for the meeting’s first Pattern contest, the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes, a G3 over seven furlongs.

Johnston said of the son of Farhh: “We’ve seen the final declarations and it looks a race full of horses like him – maiden/ novice winners who are stepping up in grade. This was the plan for him straight away after his impressive win at Goodwood. He is a colt we have always thought a bit of and we wanted to save him for Glorious Goodwood. We have been happy with him since that win and hopefully he’s good enough.”

Johnston has a large team of well-known handicappers set to run throughout the week, including another Goodwood winner Soldier In Action, who is on schedule for Saturday’s feature, the £285,000 Betfred Ebor Handicap. The Alan Spence-owned gelding is currently a 16-1 chance with the sponsors.

Johnston, who saddled the winner in 1992, said: “Alan and Michael [Spence] were both keen to run here after he won at Goodwood and he seems in good form.

“A mile and six (furlongs) at a track like York with Silvestre De Sousa booked to ride are all positives and we are hopeful he can run a big race. In a race like the Ebor, you need so much luck, but he’ll take his chance and, like I said, there are plenty of boxes ticked.

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