As he was robust enough to be winning a third Pattern race from his 10th start of 2013, Johnston and owner Abdulla Al Mansoori are now unlikely to be able to resist the lure of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in just over a fortnight.
Although unsuccessful in Dubai, the winter warmth has propelled the four-year-old to greater heights, and he was the 3-1 favourite after his respectable third in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Soon in his usual position at the head of affairs, Universal was shadowed by his five rivals but saw them all off without much trouble, bustling two and a half lengths clear at the post under Joe Fanning.
“He ran one good race in Dubai and has been a complete revelation since he returned home,” said Johnston. “We were running him over a mile and a quarter mostly last year and always thought he’d stay further.
“It would be very interesting to see this horse over a mile and six furlongs in something like the Irish St Leger.”
Asked about more immediate options, the trainer said: “We’ve been wanting to run in a Group One, but these Group Twos have kept coming along.
“The King George is the obvious race. Abdulla says wait a week, but if he’s true to form he’ll be ready again in two days, he thrives on his racing.
“The heart says King George, the head would maybe say things like the Irish Leger, the Canadian International and the Japan Cup.”
John Gosden likes to use the Bahrain Trophy to road-test possible Ladbrokes St Leger types and Feel Like Dancing kept the prize in his stable for the third year running.
Following subsequent Leger winner Masked Marvel and the injury-restricted Shantaram, William Buick’s mount will also be geared towards the Doncaster Classic.
A 3-1 chance after finishing second in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, Feel Like Dancing showed great tenacity to prevail over sustained challenges, eventually beating 33-1 outsider Jathabah by a neck.
Gosden said: “I took Masked Marvel straight to the Leger, but whether this horse might need another run first in something like the Great Voltigeur at York, time will tell. He’s a young horse and he’s still learning.”
It was a third Portland Place Properties July Stakes in four years for Richard Hannon, whose Anjal (14-1) came home with great intent and widest of all under Paul Hanagan to snatch the juvenile Group Two right on the line.
Last seen in a Beverley maiden, Anjal was slowly away from the stalls but flashed past Figure Of Speech, Jallota and 9-4 favourite Sir John Hawkins, who all finished in a bunch.
The same team, plus Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, were repeating the success of Alhebayeb 12 months ago, and the owner’s racing manager, Angus Gold, said: “He’ll go seven furlongs now, and we’ll see if he’s good enough for the Dewhurst nearer the time.”
Hannon’s Montiridge, just shaded in the Jersey at Royal Ascot, barely broke sweat as 4-7 favourite for the Insure Pink Stubbs Stakes.
Johnston thought Maputo (8-1) was his Royal Ascot banker only for him to throw in a dreadful effort in the Britannia, but a return to a mile and a quarter saw him take six lengths out of the rivals in the boylesports.com Download Our App Handicap.
Qawaasem (4-1), who is well-liked by trainer Charlie Hills, gave Hanagan another winner in the Three Chimneys EBF Maiden while Jacob Butterfield’s claim made the difference for Last Sovereign (9-1) in the Frontline Bathrooms Handicap.