Eve Johnson Houghton is hoping Accidental Agent can silence the many detractors by becoming the first dual winner of the Queen Anne Stakes in 112 years.
Johnson Houghton’s 2018 Royal Ascot Group One hero delivered an emotional as well as surprise success, at odds of 33-1, when he beat Lord Glitters by half a length.
The Oxfordshire trainer’s breakthrough victory at the top level came 12 years after she took over the licence following her father Fulke’s retirement.
For good measure, Accidental Agent – owned by her mother Gaie – is named after the autobiography of her maternal grandfather, war hero and former trainer John Goldsmith.
Johnson Houghton admits even 12 months on, much of her experience at Ascot last year remains “a blur”.
She cannot help feeling either that she would love Accidental Agent to help “stick two fingers up” at those she has heard decrying the form of a race which dates back to 1840, initially as the Trial Stakes, and for much of this century – since being elevated to Group One status – has been limited to horses aged four and above.
As her charge’s preparations are completed for next week’s renewal of Royal Ascot’s opening event, she said: “I would just like to stick two fingers up to a few people. Everyone keeps saying ‘that was terrible, that older mile – terrible, terrible’.”
It is a response which understandably frustrates her.
“Everyone always says that…you try getting one then,” she added, noting the winner of the 2018 three-year-old Group One St James’s Palace Stakes, Without Parole, trailed in well behind Accidental Agent when he produced a fine effort on his comeback to finish third in last month’s Lockinge.
“That’s what they said (again) last year.
“Then Without Parole is a four-year-old this year, and he couldn’t get near the ones that were (supposedly) so bad last year.
“I don’t really care if he beat a terrible field – we won.”
After two lesser efforts in August and September last year, followed by surgery on an ankle problem, Accidental Agent has raised his trainer’s hopes with an encouraging return as he outran big odds once more at Newbury.
“I think he’s in great form this time – I’m really pleased with him,” she said.
“He looks fantastic, and he’s very happy in himself – so I just hope we get there and have the chance to give it a shot.
“He’s had problems. We thought we’d sorted them all out, but I knew he’d need the run in the Lockinge, so I was really pleased with the way he ran – considering he’d need it.”
Accidental Agent has therefore already proved he remains capable at the highest level – a point not lost, of course, on his trainer: “He’s gone and been third in a Group One, so he’s backed it up – which is great.”
A Queen Anne repeat is the stuff off dreams – but however the five-year-old fares in defence of his title, he has already etched unforgettable memories for all at his yard on the Downs.
“It all went by in a blur,” said Johnson Houghton.
“Everyone was really overjoyed – it was just so nice for the whole family being there.
“My mum bred him, and that was the most exciting thing really. It was fantastic, so many different reasons for it to just feel brilliant.”
The suspicion is that it may just feel even better if Accidental Agent defies the odds again to retain his crown.