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Easterby has faith in Nunthorpe hope Copper Knight

21 Aug 2019

Trainer hopeful his course specialist can make frame in £400,000 Coolmore-sponsored sprint at York.

Copper Knight will be seeking a fifth success at Yor. Picture: Racingfotos.com

Tim Easterby says Copper Knight should not be underestimated when he contests the £400,000 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday.

Easterby believes his four-time course winner, trained around 45 minutes from the course at Habton Grange Stables, will relish what is effectively a “home game” in the five-furlong showpiece and compared him with his former sprinting star Hamish McGonagall, who finished second in the 2011 Nunthorpe at 28/1.

The bookmakers anticipate the feature, which has attracted a final field of 12 and forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Sprint category, to revolve around Group 1 winners Ten Sovereigns, Battaash and Mabs Cross.

Ten Sovereigns was dazzling when making all in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket last time, while the CVs of Battaash and Mabs Cross include victories in the Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye. Mabs Cross was also beaten a nose in last year’s Nunthorpe, when Battaash was fourth for the second year running.

This trio dominate the market but in the past decade the race that has delivered several shocks. Sole Power won at 100/1 in 2010 and a year later Margot Did prevailed at 20/1, while Jwala (40/1 in 2013) and Alpha Delphini (40/1 last year) are also on the Nunthorpe roll of honour.

Copper Knight is among those trading at big odds this time but Easterby said: “He’s in great form, loves the track and with a bit of luck he should finish in a place. He wasn’t fast enough [when well-held behind Battaash in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood last time], although he didn’t act on the track very well.

“I couldn’t tell you what it is that he likes so much about York. Some horses hate the place, some like it. There’s no rhyme or reason to it but it’s a nice track to be effective at.

In terms of Copper Knight’s preparation, Easterby added: “We keep him quiet, preserve his energy for the races. Rachel Richardson rides him out every day and we don’t do anything fancy with him – just keep him happy and bright.”

Ornate and Rumbleinthejungle finished third and fourth, respectively, in the King George Qatar Stakes, a Group 2 race at the Qatar Goodwood Festival which Battaash won for a record third time. David Griffiths, the trainer of eight-time winner Ornate, said: “He’s under the radar a bit and a big price, which he was at Goodwood as well. For me there was no fluke about his run there, when he finished about three lengths behind a horse [Battaash] who is arguably the best sprinter in England.

“You can forget his Stewards’ Cup run the next day – he went far too fast – and he’s come out of it well. I think he will be even better next year but we are right where we want to be with him and you would think York, being a quick five, will play to his strengths. Some of his form ties in with the fancied horses and we will be there to pick up the pieces if they do not perform.”

Rumbleinthejungle, trained by Richard Spencer, finished four lengths third to Ten Sovereigns in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket last season and was a similar distance behind Battaash at Goodwood. Oisin Murphy is looking forward to riding him for the first time.

“Richard is a good friend of mine, and a very good trainer too. I asked him for the ride on him and was thrilled when I was confirmed to be on him,” Murphy said. “He’s clearly going to have to step up a little bit on his last run, but things did not go right for him at Goodwood.”

Soldier’s Call was among last season’s speediest two-year-olds and ran a cracker to be third behind Blue Point and Battaash in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, when he finished a place ahead of Mabs Cross. However, Archie Watson’s challenger was subsequently below-par at the Curragh.

Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Ten Sovereigns, is seeking a third Nunthorpe triumph after the victories of Stravinsky (1999) and Mozart (2001). He is also represented by Fairyland and So Perfect, third and fifth, respectively, in the Darely July Cup Stakes at Newmarket last month.

The field is completed by El AstronauteGarrus and Intense Romance.