Richmond preview: Cardsharp holds all the aces for Mark Johnston

Wed 2 Aug 2017

By staff

Connections of Cardsharp are optimistic he can defy a penalty in the Qatar Richmond Stakes at Goodwood on Thursday.

Third in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot on his penultimate start, the son of Lonhro returned to winning ways in the July Stakes at Newmarket.

Despite having to give away 3lb to his rivals in the six-furlong Group Two, the Mark Johnston-trained two-year-old is reportedly thriving at home.

Charlie Johnston, the Middleham handler's son and assistant, said: "As we saw at Newmarket in the July Stakes with the Coventry winner (Rajasinghe), it is not easy to defy a penalty.

"We did toy with the idea of going to the Phoenix next but this is a very valuable and prestigious Group Two.

The Moet and Chandon July Festival - Ladies Day - Newmarket Races

Cardsharp upped his game when winning at Newmarket last time

"We thought we could come here en route to the Morny, or something like that. The deciding factor was how well he came out of Newmarket. He didn't lose any weight and was absolutely bouncing. Considering he behaved like a clown there, he is in very good form with himself.

"He has won on slow ground when he won the Brian Yeardley at Beverley so when the rain comes he is likely to handle it."

Connections of the William Haggas-trained Headway, who finished runner-up in the Coventry Stakes, are hoping he can benefit from a short break.

Harry Herbert, racing manager to owners the Royal Ascot Racing Club, said: "He ran a terrific race at Ascot.

"William Haggas has given him plenty of time off after what was a hard race at Ascot. The big concern is the ground as I'm not sure he would want it very soft as he is a good-actioned horse.

"He should handle the track as he is a very fast and well-balanced horse, although you can never tell until they run on it. It looks the right spot for him and the form of the Coventry has held up well. We are hoping he can run another big race for the Royal Ascot Racing Club."

Charlie Hills would not be concerned if the ground deteriorates when he saddles Superlative Stakes runner-up Nebo, who made a winning debut in soft conditions at Newbury in May.

Hills said: "If all the rain comes it would not be a much of a worry. We said we would bring him back to six (furlongs) if it was soft ground and keep him at seven if it was quick.

"He is a very tough, genuine two-year-old. I've been delighted with his work since Newmarket and I am looking forward to running him again. The draw in (stall) one should be fine."

While US Navy Flag is one of the more exposed runners in the field, trainer Aidan O'Brien believes he still has more to offer after taking his form to new heights when runner-up in the July Stakes.

O'Brien said: "He has progressed with every run and we were delighted with his run the last day at Newmarket. He won easy at the Curragh the time before that.

"I'm not sure the weight pull will help him but he is in good form and he has progressed from every run."

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