Racing: Johnston's stable continues to shine

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The Independent Online
MARK JOHNSTON has struck a purple patch and Shontaine and Forum Girl, both ridden by John Carroll, made their contribution, modest though it may have been, to a great day for the stable with clear-cut successes at Ayr yesterday.

The Middleham trainer struck his biggest blow when Fruits Of Love landed the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, while Fez had set the trend when winning the first race at Redcar.

Yesterday's four-timer took his score to six in the last three racing days and his representative, the former jockey Bobby Elliott, said: "I think we have nine runners tomorrow. We are on a roll now, so hopefully we will have a few more winners, but today has been a good day anyway."

Shontaine was retained with a bid of pounds 5,200 after winning the Ayrshire Selling Handicap and the success brought back memories for Elliott, who added: "I won three or four races on his mother Hinari Televideo, including a good handicap at the Ascot Heath meeting on the Saturday following the Royal fixture."

The seven-furlong Corporate Boxes Are Value At Ayr Stakes had looked a formality for Liberty Lines, on whom one intrepid punter laid out pounds 14,000 to win pounds 4,000, but he was beaten fair and square by Forum Girl. Elliott said: "I told John [Carroll] that if she was anything like she worked at home she could win by 10 lengths. I think she could be all right."

Tim Easterby and David Nicholls in contrast were out of luck at Royal Ascot, the former unlucky with Flanders being beaten narrowly in the King's Stand Stakes.

However, they had some small consolation at Ayr and Nicholls will be delighted with a return to form of Double Oscar who was winning his 11th race, but first since August last year, when taking the Ben Handicap. The gelding was partnered by his wife Alex Greaves, who said: "The yard has been on fire this year but he has been disappointing, though he has dropped down in the weights. Hopefully, he will bounce back to form now."

Easterby's win came with French Fellow who was given a good ride by Gyles Parkin to take the Ayr For Life Median Auction Maiden Stakes. The stable representative Carol Easton said: "Gyles rides out for Mr Easterby twice a week and is a very good jockey, he was brilliant."

The smart apprentice Neil Pollard gained his first success on the course when Bodfari Quarry kept up Barry Hills' good run of success in the Sponsorship Is Value At Ayr Handicap, while Paul Quinn, who is with Reg Hollinshead, coaxed William Haggas' Nadisha home in front in the Fenwick Apprentice Maiden Handicap.

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