Last year’s Derby runner-up has made the perfect start to the season, winning the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in May before backing that up with a comfortable success in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown last time out.
Both races were qualifiers for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers Million – which wins connections a £1million bonus if their horse wins a qualifier, the Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup – and Johnston is optimistic Dee Ex Bee is up for the extreme test of the Gold Cup.
Trainer Johnstonsaid: ‘Dee Ex Bee has made a perfectly good start.
He’s yet to come up against the big boys and it’s not just about Stradivarius – who is a mountain to climb.
But he’s taken in what I see as the two traditional Gold Cup trials and won them both in style, which suggests he’ll relish two and a half miles.
What more can he do?’ The Middleham-based handler is wary about the challenge Dee Ex Bee faces from reigning Gold Cup champion Stradivarius, who landed the inaugural Stayers Million last year.
But Johnston believes the four-year-old can fits the same mould as his former champion stayers Royal Rebel and Double Trigger.
‘I started thinking about Dee Ex Bee as the right type around Derby time, maybe even before then,’ Johnston added.
‘But when you have a Derby second you have to go through the motions of trying to win a high profile Group One at a mile and a half to make him a stallion.
As soon as it was clear that wasn’t going to happen we suggested Dee Ex Bee should stay in training for the Cup races.
‘ Regardless of whether or not Dee Ex Bee wins the Stayers Million, Johnston has nothing but praise for the initiative.
He said: ‘I do like this kind of bonus.
I’m not sure it will make much difference at the breeding and sales end, but once you have a horse of St Leger type and class it certainly gives added reason to stay in training.’
Antonia De Vega kept her Classic dreams alive after she ran out an impressive winner of the Johnnie Lewis Memorial EBF Stakes at Newbury.