Hot stuff from winter squad

The excellent form of Mark Johnston's winter squad was succinctly underlined with a 14-1 double at windswept Southwell yesterday.

The excellent form of Mark Johnston's winter squad was succinctly underlined with a 14-1 double at windswept Southwell yesterday.

The Middleham, North Yorkshire, handler has saddled a stack of winners over the last few weeks and put clear water between himself and his all-weather championship rivals after Regal Parade and Annemasse were guided home by Joe Fanning.

The latter set the ball rolling with a first-time-out victory in the Maiden Stakes.

Sent off at odds of 9-2, the son of Anabaa overcame greenness to comfortably repel Popolo, who went down by a well-held four lengths.

Beverley-based owner Brian Yeardley said: "He had knee problems last year and we couldn't get him straight, so hopefully he'll come back sound."

Regal Parade supplemented his Wolverhampton win with an all-the-way triumph in the Pontin's Holidays Handicap 30 minutes later. The outcome was never in doubt once Fanning gave his partner a few reminders three out as the son of Pivotal picked up nicely under his jockey's urgings.

The 7-4 favourite still looked a touch naïve as they galloped for home but had too much class for the rest of them and swept to a two-length call from Eau Good.

Blushing Prince provided Richard Guest with a welcome winner in the Go Pontin's Apprentice Handicap. The nine-year-old still had plenty to do at the top of the home straight but came with a determined run under 4lb claimer Patrick Donaghy to score by two lengths from Shadow Jumper.

It was Guest's first success in 95 days under both codes and connections hope the yard will now enjoy an upturn in fortunes as a consequence.

"The horses have had all sorts of maintenance but are generally in good nick," said Guest's representative Peter Gorvin.

"Hopefully, this will now be the start of a winning sequence."

Of the 16-1 winner, Gorvin added: "This is his minimum trip as he often runs too freely and doesn't get home. He did that well though and was given a perfect ride."

Six Day War emerged one of the easiest winners of the day when justifying 13-8 favouritism in the Pontin's Book Early Handicap over a mile and a half.

Jamie Osborne's three-year-old made a highly-encouraging handicap debut stepping up in trip under Shane Kelly and zipped past pacesetter Peregrine Falcon en route to a three-length verdict from Red Petal.

Soba Jones clocked up his fifth win at the Nottinghamshire track in the first division of the Pontin's Handicap.

John Balding's 5-1 shot was always prominent and came out half a length to the good following a prolonged scrap with runner-up Favouring.

Spirit Of Coniston is another who comes alive at Southwell and showed up really well to take the Pontin's Family Holidays Claiming Stakes. Peter Grayson's four-year-old cast aside two recent subdued performances to register a third course victory in the hands of Duran Fentiman, who had a length and a quarter in hand from El Potro at the line.

Grayson, whose 14-1 chance was claimed by Colin Teague for 6,000 guineas, said: "The excuse for his last two runs was that he was not 100% fit. We did some blood tests afterwards and found he was not quite right but we were able to turn him around."


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