Eternal Heart has the beating of the rest at pulsating Musselburgh
One of the most underrated jockeys in the business, Fanning has been chief jockey to Scots-born Johnston for several years now. He showed why with masterly judgment of pace, staying clear in the final furlong of the 1m 4f handicap to make it a 1-3-4 for Johnston, Namibian and Swift Alhaarth finishing behind second-placed Mica Mika from the Richard Fahey stable.
The prize money for first, third, and fourth boosted Johnston into fourth place in the trainers' championship, and with Andre Fabre being now third due only to the 709,000 from Pour Moi's Derby win yesterday, the vet-turned trainer from Aberfoyle has his best chance yet to win the title he covets as he traditionally keeps up the winning rate well into the autumn and has much better two-year-olds this year than last.
The main event was the centrepiece of a cracking day's racing at Musselburgh, and the race was really simple to follow. Eternal Heart took up the running early, Fanning set a decent pace in front which seemed to discomfit those in behind, and in the back straight, Fanning gave Eternal Heart a breather but stayed in front round the turn. He then cajoled Eternal Heart all the way up the straight to maintain its place to the line, Mica Mika finishing best of the rest to be second by a length.
Top weight Namibian was carrying 16lbs more than his winning stablemate who was next in the handicap, so his third place under Greg Fairley has to be seen as a sterling effort.
Eternal Heart has already won over 1m 6f and this step back in trip and victory in a fast time shows that Johnston has found a possible replacement for the classy Yavana's Pace, a half-brother to Eternal Heart.
Johnston's wife and full-time assistant trainer Deirdre said: "Joe was a little bit worried about returning to this sharper trip because he'd won over a mile and six at Sandown and looked a little bit outpaced there.
"Joe is a fantastic judge of pace and is very clever in how he rides the bends which just helps the horse to keep balanced. He's still a green immature horse but has progressed with each run and is going the right way."
Johnston congratulated the course on its big prize incentive to owners and trainers: "If you look at the big handicaps at Ascot they are worth 50,000, and this was worth 80,000.We couldn't understand why so few stables had entered so we though it only fair to Musselburgh to put in as many as we could (four out of nine) because they had been so fantastic in putting the prize money up."
Jockey Fanning said: "We were worried about the trip being on the sharp side but he hit the gates good and travelled well and he's a nice horse in the making, a definite staying prospect."
The other big Johnston hope of the day, Es Que Love, was beaten out of sight by the speedy Frederick Engels in the Totepool Edinburgh Castle Conditions Stakes.
The main supporting race, the 40,000 totescoop6 Scottish Sprint Cup was won by 50-1 outsider Burning Thread, ruining the chances of two punters in the Tote Scoop 6 who could have won 300,000 if either of their selections had won.