Champion stayer Stradivarius looks nailed on to collect another Weatherbys Hamilton £1,000,000 bonus with consecutive victories in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup over an extended 2m at the Ebor Festival in York on Friday (14:25).
One of John Gosden’s stable stars has the opposition running scared. Just four horses oppose Stradivarius in his bonus bid after wins in the Yorkshire Cup here, the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and Goodwood Cup again this season.
The staying division’s kingpin only ever does enough to win and wasn’t inconvenienced by the 3lb penalty for his Group 1 victories here 12 months ago.
Stradivarius keeps that bit in hand under Frankie Dettori and there’s no reason to think things will be any different here.
He’s held main market rival Dee Ex Bee at both Ascot and Goodwood and they’re now rated 2lb apart officially.
All known form suggests Stradivarius can find the pound needed on these terms to again best Mark Johnston’s four-year-old. Owner Bjorn Nielsen has seen Stradivarius win his last eight races.
He’s not an original selection but by far the best horse in the Lonsdale Cup again this year. The five-year-old is one of the great modern stayers and an odds-on 1/2 price with Labdrokes reflects that.
Dee Ex Bee, meanwhile, is the obvious forecast choice. He chased home Stradivarius in the Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup.
Last year’s Epsom Derby runner-up is 1lb well-in on these terms, but that doesn’t look enough to turn the tables.
This is a home fixture for Dee Ex Bee, who is based at Johnston’s stables at Middleham in the Yorkshire Dales.
As he’s clear of the three remaining horses, odds of 4/1 with Bethard suggest he is booked for second place again.
Improving Falcon Eight the Lonsdale Cup dark horse
The rest, including course and distance winner Magic Circle have plenty to find.
Irish trainer Dermot Weld does well with the runners he sends to York, however, and the potential improver is Falcon Eight.
This lightly-raced four-year-old was a fast finishing runner-up to subsequent Curragh Cup hero Twilight Payment in a Listed race at Leopardstown earlier this season.
When stepped back up to 2m last time out on Eclipse day at Sandown, Falcon Eight resumed winning ways.
He prevailed by a head in a sustained duel with useful form marker Mekong – who had previously chased home Dee Ex Bee in a Group 3 over the same course and distance.
It marked Falcon Eight out as a progressive sort in staying races.
This demands more but, against an ageing seven-year-old in Magic Circle and the unproven three-year-old Il Paradiso, he looks the one for tricast purposes at 7/1 with Paddy Power in the Lonsdale Cup.
Speaking of Il Paradiso, the Aidan O’Brien trained youngster bolted up by 12 lengths in a staying handicap at The Curragh last time out.
He was sent off a short-price favourite and has a ratings hike of a whole stone to justify.
While Il Paradiso gets 12lb weight-for-age from his elders, and 15lb from Stradivarius, only Magic Circle – a distant ninth in the Gold Cup last time out – looks truly vulnerable.
It’s a huge step up in grade and class for Il Paradiso, even more so than Falcon Eight. O’Brien keeping his best stayers away from Stradivarius tells its own story.