Dark Vision, winner of the G2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in 2018, bounced back to form today when landing the ultra-competitive Royal Hunt Cup.
Running the famous blue silks of Godolphin, Dark Vision was a 46th Royal Ascot win for trainer Mark Johnston and a 24th for jockey William Buick. Returned at 15/2, Dark Vision was delivered to challenge entering the final furlong of the mile contest and went on to score by a length and a quarter from Montatham (8/1).
Mark Johnston said: “If you remember this horse winning as a two-year-old at Goodwood, he made that look pretty easy as well, but he’s been nothing but a frustration since he changed hands, so I feel great for Sheikh Mohammed, who bought the horse as a two-year-old and who has had nothing but disappointment since until today. It is a drop in class to handicap company, but the best of handicaps, and he’s done it so well.
“We were the unlucky ones on the far side with Cardsharp, so we have suffered from this draw, so we did expect it would be faster this side. Vale Of Kent’s run a tremendous race up front, as they’ve gone hard all the way. William [Buick] said he just left the horse alone, he needed a bit of luck in running because he was a bit short of room to get through, but he’s been working brilliantly at home so we were not surprised by it – it’s just been a frustration waiting for it to come.
“Remember, he is a G2 winner already. He has come down enough to get into handicaps; whether he goes back up to Group races, we will leave that for the handicappers to decide for us.
“It is very, very different. You can’t say there’s any great atmosphere, but at the same time I’ve been wondering about the logic of having so many runners when the prize-money is so low and the racing is still so competitive, but it’s still great to get one on the board. I am sure in the future being able to say you had a winner at Royal Ascot Behind Closed Doors, like having a winner at Royal Ascot at York, is going to be a great thing for the history books.”
Johnston was asked about Nayef Road, his runner in tomorrow’s G1 Gold Cup. He replied: “We have seen Stradivarius defeated this year, but over a very different trip. If Stradivarius turns up in the form of last year, then he is going to be very difficult to beat. At the same time, he is not going to go on forever, and when he does give way to a younger horse, Nayef Road is that type of horse – a St Leger-placed horse [finished third], as was Double Trigger. I have always said you can’t look past St Leger form when you are looking for these top stayers, so he’s got all the credentials, but he’s there against the old pretender, who is very hard to beat.”
William Buick said: “Dark Vision was bought by connections to be a good horse and now he has rewarded them with a Royal Ascot win.
“He travelled through the race beautifully today. I was always happy with where I was throughout the race today. I was tracking the right horses and it was just all about getting the split at the right time. When he got that split, he quickened up very well. It was a strongly run race and everything fell in place for him today.
“We got a glimpse from Dark Vision as to what we saw from him as a two-year-old. He ran very well at Newcastle and off that run, you could see he was getting back to his best. Today we saw the true horse that he is.
“It is not ideal at all not having spectators. But it is great to be racing and it is fantastic racing at Royal Ascot, as it always is. It is very well organised and very responsible. We have got the show on the road and, under these circumstances, that is great. We can’t wait for the normality to come back and the crowds to come back.”
3.35pm Royal Hunt Cup Heritage Handicap
- Dark Vision [drawn 11] Mark Johnston 4-9-01 William Buick 15/2
- Montatham  William Haggas 4-8-12 Dane O’Neill 8/1
- Pogo  Charlie Hills 4-9-06 Kieran Shoemark 25/1
- Vale Of Kent  Mark Johnston 5-9-09 Joe Fanning 22/1
46th Royal Ascot win for trainer Mark Johnston
24th Royal Ascot win for jockey William Buick
Non-Runner: Jahbath (Self Certificate, lame)
6/1 Fav Lord Tennyson (11th)
Time: 1m 38.32s
Distances: 1¼, ½, 1¼
Tote Win: £11.40 Places: £5.15, £3.55, £8.05 Exacta: £70.70