Mark Johnston admits that seeing Permian win the Derby at Epsom on Saturday would be one scratched off his ‘bucket list’.
The Middleham-based handler is heading for the premier British Classic with a leading contender in the shape of Dante winner Permian, currently available at 11/1 in the Derby betting.
Johnston has already won both Guineas races at Newmarket as well multiple Classics in Ireland plus a hat-trick of Ascot Gold Cups in his stellar career.
There is something very special about the Derby at Epsom, however, and with the days counting down, he admits it would be a defining moment should Permian come up trumps on the Downs.
“I’m not having sleepless nights over it. It won’t change my life, but it would be a great thing to have knocked off the bucket list,” Johnston said.
The Yorkshire handler also appears to be quite bullish in relative terms on the chances of his Teofilo colt being the best horse in the race.
He was very impressive in scoring at Newmarket before his Dante success at York this month, but it is the form of his short-head defeat in a Derby Trial at Epsom last month that is attracting plenty of interest.
There, Permian went down by the slenderest of margins to the John Gosden-trained Cracksman, the current 7/2 favourite to win the Derby.
Permian was supplemented at a cost of £85,000 to take his place in the Derby field and his trainer says he more than merits it.
There was precious little between them last time out and Johnston is adamant Cracksman, who missed the Dante on account of the soft ground, will have to improve to uphold that form on Saturday.
“He has Epsom form, albeit he got beaten. You’ve got to give the credit to Cracksman, who has a fraction better form than ours. All the indications are that Permian came on from Epsom to Newmarket, and from Newmarket to York,” added Johnson.
“I would say Cracksman has got to improve to beat him. He won’t beat him by running the race he did last time. We deserve to be there. It would be a travesty if the Dante winner wasn’t there.”
Johnston also outlined his respect for the challenge posed by five-time Derby-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien and his Ballydoyle team.
Cliffs Of Moher, at 4/1, is currently shortest in the betting from O’Brien’s potential runners, but there has also been support for 11/1 chance Capri after Epsom was hit by 15mm of rain late on Sunday and into Monday, increasing the chances of softer ground come Derby day.
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