Nayef Road wins the Gordon Stakes
Image supplied by Goodwood Racecourse

Mark Johnston is hoping his two runners, Sir Ron Priestley or Nayef Road, can deliver him a first victory in the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.

Nayef Road won the Group 3 Qatar Gordon Stakes at Goodwood last month, but was well beaten in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.

Sir Ron Priestley has been in fine form and made it five wins from six starts when landing the Group 3 Ladbrokes March Stakes at Goodwood, at the end of August.

The Australia colt is owned by Paul Dean, one of Johnston’s longest-standing patrons, and will be ridden by 49-year-old Franny Norton, whose decorated CV does not yet include a Group 1 winner.

Johnston said: “Sir Ron Priestley is going to have to up his game considerably but he’s done everything else we’ve asked of him and so he’s got to have a shot at the St Leger.

“We are under no illusions about the fact he will need a personal best to win. He won a Group 3 race on his last outing, while this is a Group 1 with Classic horses in there and a much taller order. But he stays the trip well and it’s not impossible he could bridge the gap.”

He added: “The St Leger is a race I would dearly love to win and it would be fantastic for Paul [Dean] and Franny, who’s as good as ever, to get a big one.

“Paul’s a tremendous owner and has been with us almost as long as I’ve been training. I always say bookmakers make great owners because they’ve made their living out of the fact that we don’t know what is going to win.

“Most of his horses have been called after friends and he gives them a knighthood that they didn’t actually have. I tried to call one Sir Paul Dean but he heard about it just before and asked me not to. The name’s been reserved and there will be a Sir Paul Dean one day.”