Stradivarius bids to continue his domination of the staying division with a second victory in the Weatherbys Lonsdale Cup at York on Friday.
John Gosden’s remarkable chestnut has developed into a winning machine over the last 18 months, enjoying a faultless campaign in 2018 as he claimed the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup to land the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million.
He rounded off last season with victory on Champions Day and it has been more of the same this term, as he has successfully defended the Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup, meaning he will again secure a £1million windfall if he can strike gold on the Knavesmire.
Gosden said: “We are looking forward to the race. He did struggle in it last year – no doubt about that. It’s quite a lot of races, but they are spaced well and he has already been to York once this year for the Yorkshire Cup.
“The old boy is fine, it’s a good field with Dee Ex Bee in there again so it will be a proper race – we know it’s not going to be easy for him.
“He’s a scrapper, though, the kind of guy who you’d want on your side in a barroom brawl, he’d be right there with you until the end.”
The biggest threat to the hot favourite appears to be his old rival Dee Ex Bee, who filled the runner-up spot behind the staying superstar both at Royal Ascot and Goodwood, most recently going down by just a neck.
Trainer Mark Johnston said: “I’ll be a bit sick if we finish second to him again!
“But where else do you go, what can you do, we’ve got to take him on again as that is what racing is about.”
Falcon Eight is an interesting contender for Dermot Weld, who saddled Pale Mimosa to claim this prize in 2014.
The lightly-raced Galileo colt is a half-brother to a trio of high-class performers in Free Eagle, Sapphire and Custom Cut and has won three of his five starts to date, most recently claiming a narrow victory in last month’s Coral Marathon at Sandown.
Fiona Craig, breeding adviser to owners Moyglare Stud Farm, said: “He ran a good race at Sandown last time and hopefully he’s progressive.
“He is the most incredibly lazy horse, he’s probably the most laid-back horse you’ve ever seen. I’m sure if you let him gallop along at the back, he’d pull up and stand and eat grass!
“Stradivarius is one of the best stayers we’ve seen in several years and Dee Ex Bee is as tough as they come. With our horse I think it’s a question of how fast he’s learning compared to the ability that we think he has.
“Pat Smullen has done an awful lot of work with him at home, teaching him to race, and any success he has will be largely down to him.”