Mark Johnston sets Permian Secretariat challenge at Arlington Park

Fri 11 Aug 2017

The quest for an elusive Group One takes Permian to Arlington Park on Saturday where he will line up as one of the favourites for the Secretariat Stakes.

Winner of the Dante at York and the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot, Mark Johnston's three-year-old ran no race in the Derby but was agonisingly beaten in the Grand Prix de Paris at Saint-Cloud last time out.

Permian must carry a 7lb penalty in the Secretariat Stakes, but so does his major market rival Oscar Performance.

Charlie Johnston, the Middleham trainer's son and assistant, said: "There's only six horses in the race and he comes out top on ratings.

"It's a bit of a different test – a sharp mile and a quarter on an American circuit – but this horse has shown how adaptable he is all season.

"We thought the French race would take a lot out of him and he'd need a bit longer, but he came out of it better than ever.

"He's just the most phenomenal horse. Everything we've thrown at him this year, he's come back asking for more.

"He's travelled over super and William (Buick) knows him better than anyone.

"Priority number one is to try and get a Group One under his belt. Let's hope he'll take a bit of beating."

Royal Ascot - Day Four - Ascot Racecourse Mark Johnson's Permian is seeking that elusive top-level success in Chicago (Racingfotos)

French trainer Jean-Claude Rouget has sent over Afandem, the mount of Frankie Dettori.

Harry Herbert, racing manager for the colt's owners Al Shaqab Racing, said: "He's progressive and very talented and this looks the right spot."

Aidan O'Brien saddles Taj Mahal, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore.

Moore told his Betfair column: "I'd like to think there is more to come from him, and he is getting 7lb from Permian and Oscar Performance, which evens it up a bit."

O'Brien and Moore team up with Rain Goddess in the Beverly D Stakes, in which Hugo Palmer's former inmate Hawksmoor is on a hat-trick for trainer Arnaud Delacour.

Moore said of Rain Goddess: "I think she has the class and the temperament to figure and 10 furlongs is probably the right trip for her.

"She also gets weight as the only three-year-old in the race, but I'd be a lot keener on her chances from a lower draw."

Marco Botti's Fanciful Angel, a winner in Dubai in January, faces 12 rivals in the Arlington Million.

Botti told At The Races: "This is a tough race, but he stays a mile and a quarter on a sharp track. Whether he'll be up to this level, we'll find out.

"Hopefully the ground doesn't go too soft as he really wants top of the ground.

"Daniel Muscutt knows the horse very well and we're hoping for a good run."

Deauville, third in the race behind Mondialiste 12 months ago, is the likely favourite for the Moore-O'Brien axis.

The jockey said: "We know this horse takes his travelling well – he also won the Belmont Derby last summer – and he is uncomplicated, and a trier.

"I'm expecting another big run from him."

The Rouget-trained Mekhtaal is also owned by Al Shaqab but will continue his career in America after he runs in the Arlington Million.

Herbert said: "I've always thought Mekhtaal would be suited to American racing and he'll stay out there now.

"His form is very good and he ran well in the Prince of Wales's but he's got a terrible draw.

"Frankie will have to work his magic."

__Watch the Arlington Million meeting live on Racing UK in the company of Mark Johnson, Rachel Candelora and James Willoughby.__

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