Racing: Bandari lifts Johnston back on to the podium

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The Independent Online

Tuesday was terrible but Wednesday was wondrous for Mark Johnston here at the July meeting. The sorry interruption to Attraction's winning run on the opening afternoon was swiftly followed yesterday by victory for the Middleham trainer with Bandari in the featured Princess of Wales's Stakes.

Tuesday was terrible but Wednesday was wondrous for Mark Johnston here at the July meeting. The sorry interruption to Attraction's winning run on the opening afternoon was swiftly followed yesterday by victory for the Middleham trainer with Bandari in the featured Princess of Wales's Stakes.

"That epitomises the ups and downs of racing," Johnston said. It was not Kipling but it was about right.

Bandari is an unpredictable character, one who sometimes wastes his chance by getting over-emotional before a race even starts. His trainer removed one stimulant from the equation yesterday by ensuring the five-year-old could hear no evil.

Two hours before the Group Two race, Bandari was fitted with earplugs. They were removed at the stalls, where the horse reacted to the reintroduction of noise most violently.

"When I took the earplugs out at the start he was shocked and whipped around as if someone had slapped him up the arse," Richard Hills, the jockey, said. "I fell off, so it's a good job the handler had a firm hold."

Mission, however, had been accomplished. Bandari, a 12-1 shot, was sweat-free and a composed figure at the back when the field was sent on its way. Naheef, two years ago Godolphin's Derby horse, has fallen a long way and it was his assignment to put his shoulder to the strong wind at the head of the field.

These duties were designed to benefit stablemate Sulamani, who took shelter at the rear in company with Bandari. After a mile the pair were still last, but went their separate ways, Bandari on the rail and Sulamani pulled to the outside by Frankie Dettori. A furlong out they were at the head of the field.

From there, it could be only one result. While Bandari has proved in the past that he would run through fire in a close finish, Sulamani's fighting qualities are rather less solid. The northern-based horse was half a length to the good at the line.

"He travelled well and I got a good run straight through which, with the wind, was a big help," Hills said. "When you get upside with him you know the opponent will weaken."

There was a gloss of satisfaction from Sulamani's connections after the race, the suggestion that the five-year-old had performed well on ground firmer than he would have liked.

The nasty truth, though, is that Sulamani might not be the most courageous lion on the plain. He ran away from the whip yesterday, going sideways rather than forward when he felt Dettori issue a stroke.

"He should win races like this, but, on different ground, I'm sure you will see a different performance," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said. "You saw him hanging today. He was saving himself on the ground."

Team Dubai can console themselves with the notion that Swain was beaten into second here before he won a King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, for which Sulamani is 8-1. Bandari is twice the price.

Johnston is looking forward to that contest, as he is Deauville's Prix Jacques le Marois, which is likely to be Attraction's next race. "All unbeaten runs come to an end and the pressure is off," the trainer said.

"I've never lost faith in Bandari. He's had his bad days and this shows that good horses can come back. He was a star two years ago and we thought he'd run a big race in the Derby. I'm delighted we have him back."

The Princess of Wales's was proof of how racing at the higher level can be private sports between the Maktoums. The three most prominent siblings each had a runner and filled the first two places. Other families indulge in parlour games. They may play Monopoly, the Maktoums effectively run one.

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