News

Back to articles

Stradivarius set for intriguing cup clash with Flag Of Honour

3 Oct 2018

John Gosden's million pound stayer aiming for season swansong on Champions Day

The QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup is the first race on QIPCO British Champions Day and promises to get things off to a flyer with Stradivarius, who has carried all before him in this year’s staying races, set to face an intriguing new challenger in Flag Of Honour, winner of the Comer Group International Irish St Leger.

Flag Of Honour is not among the 22 entries left in the race but Aidan O’Brien, his trainer, has indicated that the three-year-old son of Galileo will be supplemented provided he continues to please in the build-up to the two-mile feature.

He has thrived since being upped in distance and on his latest start made all for Classic success at the Curragh. Asked to volunteer intended Ballydoyle runners on QIPCO British Champions Day, O’Brien said: “Flag Of Honour would be one we’d be thinking of sending over. The QIPCO Long Distance Cup over two miles is what we have in mind for him.”

O’Brien, whose nine other entries include Kew Gardens, the William Hill St Leger winner, won last year’s QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup with Order Of St George and Irish-trained challengers have won six of the previous eight runnings.

John Gosden has been responsible for one of the two British-trained QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup winners – Flying Officer prevailed for him in 2016 – and he has an outstanding candidate this time around in Stradivarius, who has established himself the best stayer in training.

Successive wins in the Mansionbet Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup, Qatar Goodwood Cup and Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup – all of them QIPCO British Champions Series races – earned his connections a £1 million bonus offered by Weatherbys Hamilton.

The four-year-old, a close third in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup last year, had to dig deep to extend his winning spree under regular rider Frankie Dettori at York last time but he still had a length and a half to spare over Count Octave at the finish.

“I saw him on Friday morning. He’s had a nice break and recovered well,” said Bjorn Nielsen, his owner-breeder. “The weather forecast for at least the next two weeks is good and, provided it’s not heavy ground, he will run.

“Frankie said he was flat at York but they are very happy with him now. Those four big races he had are tough on any horse and he’d had only a three-week break between Goodwood and York, whereas he’ll been having six weeks before.

“Don’t forget he had that 3lb penalty to carry last time. If you take that away he’d have won by five lengths, with nine lengths to the third and 12 lengths to the fourth and everyone would have been saying ‘wow, what a performance’.

“That 3lb is three lengths over two miles and it makes a big difference. They raised him afterwards [from 118 to 120], which shows the handicapper thought it was his best performance.”

Nielsen has yet to enjoy a success on QIPCO British Champions Day, although Biographer carried his colours to second in the 2014 running of the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. He said: “Everybody loves those stayers. Stradivarius is on target and fingers crossed everything stays as it is.”

If Stradivarius wins, he will become only the second horse to have won five races that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series umbrella in the same season. The mighty Frankel achieved the feat in 2012.

Dee Ex Bee, runner-up in the Investec Derby and fourth in the St Leger, could represent Mark Johnston, while Willie Mullins has left in four entries, including Thomas Hobson and Max Dynamite, who dominated the finish of last month’s Doncaster Cup. Desert Skyline, winner of the Doncaster Cup last year, is another possible.

All remaining entries

Horse Age Weight Owner Trainer
Capri (IRE) 4 9 7 Mr D. Smith, Mrs J. Magnier, Mr M. Tabor Aidan O’Brien
Chelkar (FR) 5 9 7 O.T.I. Racing W. P. Mullins
Desert Skyline (IRE) 4 9 7 C Benham/ D Whitford/ L Quinn/ K Quinn David Elsworth
Idaho (IRE) 5 9 7 Mr M. Tabor, D. Smith & Mrs John Magnier Aidan O’Brien
Max Dynamite (FR) 8 9 7 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins
Mount Moriah (GB) 4 9 7 Mr Norman Brunskill Ralph Beckett
Stradivarius (IRE) 4 9 7 Mr B. E. Nielsen John Gosden
Thomas Hobson (GB) 8 9 7 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins
Twilight Payment (IRE) 5 9 7 Godolphin J. S. Bolger
Weekender (GB) 4 9 7 Mr K. Abdullah John Gosden
Wicklow Brave (GB) 9 9 7 Wicklow Bloodstock (Ireland) Ltd W. P. Mullins
Withhold (GB) 5 9 7 Anthony Bloom Roger Charlton
Almoghared (IRE) 3 8 13 Mr Hamdan Al Maktoum John Gosden
Cypress Creek (IRE) 3 8 13 Mr M. Tabor, D. Smith & Mrs John Magnier Aidan O’Brien
Dee Ex Bee (GB) 3 8 13 Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum Mark Johnston
Hunting Horn (IRE) 3 8 13 Mrs John Magnier,Mr M.Tabor & Mr D.Smith Aidan O’Brien
Kew Gardens (IRE) 3 8 13 Mr D. Smith, Mrs J. Magnier, Mr M. Tabor Aidan O’Brien
Nelson (IRE) 3 8 13 Mrs John Magnier,Mr M.Tabor & Mr D.Smith Aidan O’Brien
Sevenna Star (IRE) 3 8 13 Gestut Ammerland John Gosden
Sir Erec (IRE) 3 8 13 Mr D. Smith, Mrs J. Magnier, Mr M. Tabor Aidan O’Brien
Southern France (IRE) 3 8 13 Mr D. Smith, Mrs J. Magnier, Mr M. Tabor Aidan O’Brien
Sizzling (IRE) 3 8 10 Mrs John Magnier,Mr M.Tabor & Mr D.Smith Aidan O’Brien