Johnston is still not Trigger happy

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The Independent Online
He had just seen Double Trigger return from a serious foot injury to win the Doncaster Cup with all his famous swagger and resolution. Another pounds 15,000 had been banked for his owner, and beside him his wife was shedding tears of joy and relief. It was a little surprising, then, to listen to Mark Johnston in the winners' enclosure here yesterday and discover that he was not an entirely happy man.

He was delighted by the victory, of course, but Johnston will be thoroughly satisfied only when Double Trigger receives the official recognition which the trainer - not to mention many punters - believes he richly deserves. In the ratings ladder which is supposed to determine a horse's merit, Double Trigger sits on 119, which Johnston feels is at least half a dozen rungs too low.

"It's an absolute disgrace," he said yesterday. "It's totally unfair. At two miles and above he's been beaten only once in Europe in three years, and that was by Classic Cliche in the Gold Cup when he was running with three shoes. Yet he's rated as one of the worst Gold Cup winners in the last 10 years, when we all know he's one of the best in the last 30 years. He surely deserves a rating of at least 126."

You would have found few to disagree yesterday among a Town Moor crowd which had backed Double Trigger en masse. It was clear that their confidence was well founded, despite the evens favourite's three-months absence from the track, as soon as Frankie Dettori kicked for home three out and left his opponents treading water. Celeric, his only serious rival, eventually ran on to finish second, but was flattered by the two-length margin of defeat.

Given the foot problems which have troubled Double Trigger since before Ascot, it was surely one of the finest achievements of Johnston's career to return him to the track as fresh and enthusiastic as ever. "He lost two shoes prior to the Gold Cup and then another in the race, and every time more of the hoof was coming away until there was nothing to nail to any more," he said. "We just had to wait for it to grow back."

Double Trigger's next race will probably be in the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp on Arc weekend, but that, it seems, will be as far as he travels this year. "I don't think we'll be going to the Melbourne Cup," Johnston said. "We don't have any sponsorship and I think the handicapper's been a bit severe on us."

A filly who appears to be going places is Reams Of Verse, Henry Cecil's seventh winner of the May Hill Stakes in the last 10 years. She is as short as 10-1 (Coral) for next year's 1,000 Guineas following yesterday's comfortable defeat of Dame Laura, though the third, Gretel, would have been much closer with a clear run. It is a clear sign that autumn is drawing on that Reams Of Verse may now be "put away", though the Group One Fillies' Mile at Ascot later this month is a possibility.

Cecil reported that Dushyantor is in great shape for tomorrow's St Leger and is confident of a bold show. "Everyone says: 'Will he stay?'. But I'm not worried about that at all. If I was a jockey I'd ride him before everything else in the race - but whether I'm a good judge or not we'll see on Saturday." Chief Contender and Pricket are out of sorts and will not be among the opposition.

The Group One Prix de la Foret at Longchamp next month is the assignment for Bishop Of Cashel, who repeated his success of 12 months ago in the Park Stakes in a manner which suggested that a step up in class will not be beyond him.

Barry Hills had boldly stated before the Sceptre Stakes that if his runner, My Branch, failed to win then a deeply personal part of his anatomy "is a kipper". Hills is not a man to make such statements lightly, and My Branch duly beat High Summer with considerable ease, a result which will have come as a considerable relief to whoever has the task of washing Barry's underwear.