Riyadh: Despite being closely associated with the likes of Shamardal, Double Trigger and Attraction, trainer Charlie Johnston is the first to admit that horses like Subjectivist do not come around very often.
The son of Teofilo looked to have the staying division at his mercy after surging clear to win the 2021 Gold Cup at Ascot when trained by his father Mark, but unfortunately a serious leg injury meant he has been off the track ever since.
However, after a lengthy rehabilitation process, the two-time Group 1 winner is back and Johnston, now the sole holder of the license, is excited to have his stable star ready to run in the $2.5 million Group 3 Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap on Feb. 25.
He said: “It’s been an 18-month rehab journey, so to have come this far is great and we’re all very much looking forward to having him on the track again.
“It’s a bit of an unknown in the sense we aren’t entirely sure what we have back, and it will be asking a lot to have the same horse that we had 20 months ago. I sincerely hope we do, but we won’t find that out until he runs in Saudi.”
The 6-year-old was given a racecourse gallop at Newcastle last week, and with his trainer happy with the outing, everything is in place for a first run in 605 days.
“I was pleased with what I saw at Newcastle,” Johnston said. “The difficulty with any horse is that you don’t really put them into the red zone at home, but particularly with a horse of this nature who runs over these distances.
“We’ve never gone to the distances which he excels over, and we don’t have many 120-rated stayers to work him either, so of course there’s that unknown, but both myself and Joe (Fanning) were pleased with how he went.
“Joe knows the horse better than anyone and he said he got better and better the further he went which obviously bodes well for next weekend.”
Ahead of Subjectivist’s run in the 3000m Group 3, Johnston is doing his best to keep his feet on the ground, though he admits that if his horse retains any of his old ability, he will take all the beating.
“I’m trying to keep my expectations relatively in check and the main thing is that the horse comes back safe and sound,” he said.
“If he can show that he can at least be competitive at this level, then we know that we’ve still got something to work with moving forward.
“However, with the greatest respect to what else is in the race, this horse, at his best, is in a completely different stratosphere to the rest of them. The form he showed in any of his last three starts would win this race very comfortably.”
Subjectivist is likely to face off against fellow British raiders Trawlerman, Enemy and Nate the Great in the contest a week on Saturday, and while Johnston is not saying he thinks his horse will win necessarily, he admits that a victory would be right up there with anything his family have achieved.
“There have been some pretty remarkable training feats from this team over the years,” he said. “I was a lot less involved with the likes of Attraction, but to bring a horse of this level, with that injury, back after this time away would be a pretty monumental task.
“Horses of this calibre are very hard to find and we reached a stage two years ago where I was that confident in his ability that I didn’t think there was a stayer in the world that could beat him. It was purely a case of picking which races we wanted to win.
“Those horses come along every 15 or 20 years, so to have nearly lost him was a huge blow, but if we can get him back to anywhere near his imperious best, it would be a huge thrill for us all.”