Ellerslie focus for Johnson

Danielle Johnson’s focus this weekend is firmly on Ellerslie on Saturday with six rides at the meeting, including last-start stakes performer Sorrentina in the Bill Sattler Memorial (1300m).

The Lib Petagna-raced Savabeel filly made her debut for Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh in this month’s Listed O’Learys Fillies Stakes (1200m) at Wanganui and closed strongly from last to finish third to Riva Capri.

“She was really good the other day,” Johnson said.

“She was very professional down there, especially having her first start. I didn’t think she would go through the gaps like she did but she was really brave.”

Though Wanganui was a Heavy10 that day, Johnson was wary of how Sorrentina might cope with heavier conditions should the Ellerslie track deteriorate from the slow nine reading posted on Thursday.

“I don’t think she’ll go on a really heavy track. She looks too brilliant for that,” Johnson said.

“I watched her work yesterday and she worked super. We’ll see how she goes in this but I’d say Stephen will aim for further black-type after Saturday.”

Johnson’s other rides are Group One performer Zacada in the Barfoot & Thompson 2200, Midnight Runner in the Auckland Co-op Taxis 1200, Early Morning Rise, Molto Veloce and Quizzy Lizzy.

“Zacada has got the 60 kilos to carry and everything else has 54 or less so that won’t make it easy for him but he’s run second in a Sydney Cup (Gr.1, 3200m) so he’s got a bit more form than these,” Johnson said.

“Midnight Runner trialled up nicely and he does handle a bog track. He should go well and I like the other one of Peter and Dawn Williams’ too, Early Morning Rise. I trialled her up and she gave me a real nice feel.”

Further ahead, Johnson is looking forward to riding Vernanme as a likely late entry for the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on Saturday week after guiding the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) runner-up to success in last Sunday’s Listed Karaka Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe.

“He needed to win to step up to the spruik on him. Before that he’d only won a maiden at Pukekohe but he was pretty dominant and he deserves his shot at Hastings,” said Johnson, who has accepted the ride on Exuberant in the Gr.2 Sacred Falls Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) the same day.

“I had a bit of a slow start to the season but three winners on Sunday and another one yesterday (Wednesday) and all of a sudden the wheels are in motion and at the same time, Stephen’s team is really starting to fire now as well.”

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