Johnston’s Star can repeat win in Glorious opener

Bill Esdaile
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Mark Johnston has a trio of runners in this afternoon’s opening race at Glorious Goodwood.
Having won three of the last six renewals of the Skybet First Race Special Stakes (2.00pm) at Glorious Goodwood, in-form trainer Mark Johnston is the obvious starting point in pursuit of a winner in the opener.

He’s having a fantastic season, with over 100 winners so far, and that doesn’t usually dry up over the Glorious week.

The Middleham-based handler saddles three in this season’s contest, including last year’s winner SENNOCKIAN STAR and the ultra-consistent Fire Fighting. The former looks the pick of his trio, although we know little about Zand, who is having his first run for Johnston this afternoon.

Sennockian Star races from a 1lb lower mark than when successful 12 months ago and has once again bagged a decent low draw. He’ll be ridden positively from the front end and looks too big at around 10/1 not to be supported.

He took in the same prep race in the John Smith’s Cup at York as he did last season and ran a very similar race, finishing just a couple of places worse this time around. He seems to thrive on his racing and should be in a position to avoid all traffic problems on the front end of the gallop.

The market is headed by the Luca Cumani-trained Mount Logan, who ran on really well at the death in that same John Smith’s Cup to finish third ahead of Sennockian Star. He lines up again this afternoon from the same mark and is another who has won at the track.

That said, he is plenty short enough for one that has underperformed on the two occasions he has encountered ground with cut and he may want further in time.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Top Tug has become expensive to follow, while Godolphin’s Elhaame didn’t look like he was desperate for a drop in trip last time. Andrew Balding’s Collaboration ran better than his finishing position suggests at Royal Ascot and could easily go well after a little break. However, he is 21lbs higher than when looking all at sea here 12 months ago and may well be best left alone.

At a much bigger price, my eyes are drawn to James Eustace’s old-timer SPA’S DANCER at 14/1 with Unibet. The eight-year-old will be having his 53rd race under rules today and has been given a real chance by the handicapper.

Admittedly, he has hardly set the world alight in three runs so far this campaign. But there was a lot more to like about the way he ran on at the death over an inadequate trip at Nottingham when last seen in June. He won’t mind the recent rain and, with Tom Marquand taking off another 5lbs, he could feel like he’s running loose.

■ Pointers…
SENNOCKIAN STAR e/w (2.00pm Goodwood) SPA’S DANCER e/w (2.00pm Goodwood)