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Four rivals stand in way of super stayer Stradivarius

21 Aug 2019

Five-year-old will attempt to become first horse to win ten races that fall under the Champions Series umbrella in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup.

STRADIVARIUS

Stradivarius beats Dee Ex Bee in the Qatar Goodwood Cup. Picture: Racingfotos.com

Super stayer Stradivarius will face four rivals when he attempts to continue his domination of the staying division in the £225,000 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes at York on Friday (2.25).

The John Gosden-trained five-year-old, bred and owned by Bjorn Nielsen, has won his past eight races and will create QIPCO British Champions Series history if he extends his sequence, becoming the first horse to win ten races that fall under the Series umbrella.

The all-conquering Frankel won nine QIPCO British Champions Series races, a feat that Stradivarius matched with his third Qatar Goodwood Cup success last month. His other Series victories comprise two Gold Cups, two Matchbook Yorkshire Cups, plus last year’s Lonsdale Cup and the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.

His exploits have also left his connections on the brink of scooping a second Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million but his task in Thursday’s Group 2 feature, run over two miles, will be heightened by a 3lb penalty.

Among those trying to take advantage of the weight Stradivarius must concede, will be last year’s Investec Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee, who was second to Stradivarius in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, when beaten a length, and again in the Goodwood Cup, when defeated by a neck.

The Mark Johnston-trained four-year-old was flattered to get so close at the Sussex track as Frankie Dettori had already begun celebrating on the winner, but he is a tremendous stayer in his own right, having won the Longines Sagaro Stakes and Matchbook Henry II Stakes this season before his encounters with Stradivarius.

Double Eclipse (1995 and 1997) and Royal Rebel (2000) have been previous Lonsdale Cup winners for Johnston.

An intriguing new rival for Stradivarius is Falcon Eight, an improving four-year-old trained by Dermot Weld. The colt, bred and owned by Moyglare Stud Farm, made his debut only 13 months ago and has since won three of his five races – showing a good attitude to beat Mekong in the Coral Marathon at Sandown last time.

Weld won the Lonsdale Cup with Pale Mimosa in 2015 and Falcon Eight will be ridden for the first time by Oisin Murphy, the leader in the 2019 Flat Jockeys’ Championship.

“He’s an improving horse who’s from an excellent family, by Galileo. I’m thrilled to get the leg up on him, it was my only chance of a ride in the race, and I’ll be doing my best to run down Stradivarius in the final stages,” Murphy said.

“Falcon Eight’s strength is that he’s a strong stayer, so I’ll hope it’s a decent test. I know Stradivarius from seeing him gallop that he’s got a very good turn of foot. So I wouldn’t want to be setting up the race for Frankie [Dettori]. Stradivarius never wins by big margins, but he always wins. And unfortunately for the rest of us challenging him, he’s probably the best stayer we’ve seen in recent times.”

Aidan O’Brien’s sole Lonsdale Cup success was provided by Septimus in 2007. The master of Ballydoyle this time relies on Il Paradiso, runaway 12-length winner of a 2m handicap at the Curragh last month but officially rated 18lb inferior to Stradivarius.

The field is completed by Magic Circle, a two-time course winner whose exploits last year included runaway wins in the Chester Cup and Henry II Stakes. He finished well adrift of Stradivarius in the Gold Cup and, at seven years of age, would be the oldest winner since Sergeant Cecil prevailed in 2006.