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Record-breaker Johnston leads flat stars return to Carlisle

Ben Curtis (green cap) winning at Carlisle in 2018

All-time record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston will be looking to add to his prolific haul as flat racing returns to Carlisle.

Monday’s opening eight-race meeting welcomes back a host of the north of England’s most experienced trainers and jockeys with 86 declared runners.

Mark Johnston. Credit Grossick Racing

Johnston, who last season went past Richard Hannon Snr’s then record 4,193 winners, has already notched more than 60 first places on the flat this year, scooping £1.3m in prize money along the way.

He sends Port of Leith and City Tour from North Yorkshire to Cumbria for the Monday afternoon meeting.

The former will challenge in division one of the Wreay Handicap with Joe Fanning on board. He will also partner City Tour in division two of the same race. The three-year-old was a winner at Musselburgh in April when favourite.

A legion of other leading names will have entries lined up throughout the afternoon including Richard Fahey and Karl Burke who finished joint top flat trainers with six winners each at Carlisle last season.

Molly Dingwall, Carlisle racecourse general manager, said: “We are all set for what should be a great day. The course is looking fantastic and we have some great match-ups in prospect on the track.

“It is brilliant to see so many leading jockeys and trainers with entries and it makes for a wonderful start to our flat season.”

In the Penrith Handicap, Grant Tuer’s Final Go returned on form when runner-up at Ripon earlier in the month and asserted himself when winning at Carlisle in August. Also returning strongly is Les Eyre’s experienced Highly Sprung, a winner last time out at Pontefract.

Other previous winners in the 14-strong field are Fahey’s Luis Vaz De Torres, a double 2018 Leicester victor, and Julie Camacho’s Cale Lane, who had triumphs at Leicester and Doncaster.

The Thursby Handicap has a trio of horses with experience of passing the Durdar finishing post in front. Roger Fell’s Tadaawol was a winner at the corresponding meeting in 2018 in the Blackwell Handicap and repeated the trick a month later when a 9-1 winner over similar distance.

Royal Shaheen had Hayley Turner on board when winning at Carlisle in August. Paul Mulrennan will be riding this time. Tim Easterby’s Ghayyar won by a length last June with regular partner Rachel Richardson who again takes the ride.

Also fancied will be Lamloom, a winner twice in 2018 and with Daniel Tudhope, early pace setter in the jockeys’ championship, in the saddle.

Two youngsters who made a winning start on debut clash in the Durdar Novice Stakes. Keith Dalgleish’s I Could Do Better was brought home at 33-1 at Redcar in November with Michael Dods’ Ride The Monkey pulling off a similar feat at the same course last September at 25-1.

There are plenty of contenders in both divisions of the Wreay Handicap with some strong three-year-olds. Kolossus, Port of Leith and Howzer Black all had success last year and Fahey’s Ramesses has shown form this season with a win at Leicester.

Barasti Dancer, a winner at Bristol in May, provides one of six afternoon rides for Ben Curtis, leading flat jockey at the course in three of the last four seasons.

The Blackwell Handicap closes the meeting and is also split into two divisions. First off, Dalgleish’s Jacob Black is no stranger to Carlisle with two places last year and two wins dating back to 2014. He won last time out at Musselburgh.

In division two, Knowing Glance took the Wreay Handicap at this meeting last year and John Kirkup enjoyed two victories here in June 2017.

Tickets for Monday’s flat season opener are £15 for adults (in advance) or £18 (on the day). Under-18s free entry when accompanied by an adult.

Gates open 12.10pm, first race is 2.10pm and last race 5.45pm.

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