Trainer Johnston leads the way as flat racing returns to Carlisle

Renowned trainer Mark Johnston will be looking to add to his impressive season haul when flat racing returns to Carlisle on Monday.

Johnston has already notched more than 50 winners this year and will be aiming to top the 200 mark he’s achieved seven times in his career.

With more than £800,000 prize money already bagged, Johnston has three chances to add to his tally in a competitive afternoon of racing to get the Cumbrian track’s season under way.

Hard Forest is partnered with Franny Norton and looking for a first win in four in the opening Novice Stakes. Meanwhile, Aclimatise and PJ McDonald will be well fancied in the seven-furlong Thursby Handicap. The gelding has won over the same distance previously and was second over a mile at Hamilton Park on Friday.

Butterfly Lily has only recently joined Johnston at his Middleham stables and will have Norton in the saddle for the Durdar Novice Stakes.

Richard Fahey also has three runners and will be hoping to continue his fine form at Carlisle where he ended 2017 as the course’s top trainer.

Cosmic Law in the Novice Stakes offers him a chance to get off to a flying start. It’s a contest Fahey won at last year’s corresponding meeting with Ventura Dragon.

The tightest contest may well come in the six-furlong Wreay Handicap with little to choose between the leading contenders. Fahey has two runners, with Knowing Glance among those fancied and Ventura Gold.

Also likely to be in the running are Ventura Royal, a winner at Newcastle in March and Placebo Effect, a triple winner in 2017. David O’Meara’s Weellan and Helen Sherbet, twice a winner Southwell, will also have their backers.

The Durdar Novice Stakes may have the runner with the shortest odds. Hugo Palmer’s Arbalet will have Josephine Gordon on board. The three-year-old was a winner over a slightly longer distance at Redcar last July but was well beaten on his 2018 return at Newmarket last month.

Lanarkshire-based Keith Dalgleish has three hopes on the day. All are looking for their first win with Broken Wings in the Wreay Handicap the highest-rated.

Tim Easterby is another trainer who will be represented with five horses declared. Three of those will have Duran Fentiman in the saddle. Parys Mountain runs in the Blackwell Handicap Division II and provides Carlisle Bell winner Philip Makin with his sixth and final ride of the afternoon.

Molly Dingwall, Carlisle Racecourse’s General Manager, said: “With eight races and 75 runners declared we’re in for an action-packed afternoon that promises lots of exciting contests.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming back lots of familiar faces and it’s great to see Carlisle’s opening flat meeting attracting so many of the sport’s leading names.”

Gates open on Monday at 12.25pm. First race is 2.15pm and the last race is 5.45pm. Adult tickets are £15 (in advance) or £18 (on the day). Under 18s free entry when accompanied by an adult.

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