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Simcock excited for Rodrigo’s Doncaster Cup date

8 Sep 2021

Progressive colt Rodrigo Diaz to tackle extended trip in Friday's feature on Town Moor

Rodrigo Diaz

David Simcock wouldn’t dream of underestimating Stradivarius, who on Friday will start a short-priced favourite to win a second Doncaster Cup, but he hopes that his progressive stayer Rodrigo Diaz can at least make a race of it in the £110,000 Group 2, which features in the Long Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

Last month’s gutsy defeat of Spanish Mission in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup at York confirmed that Stradivarius is still the one to beat in these races, despite advancing years. However, the seven-year-old had a hard enough race there and might be vulnerable to a younger, more progressive stayer like Rodrigo Diaz, who was one of seven horses declared at the 48-hour stage.

Rodrigo Diaz is three years Stradivarius’ junior and, since his breakthrough win in a Lingfield handicap off a mark of just 59 barely a year ago, he has never stopped improving. Indeed his rise through the ranks has been so rapid that, following last month’s Group 3 second to Hukum over an inadequate 1m5f at Newbury, he now has an official mark of 105 – with the promise of more to come over Doncaster’s extra four and a half furlongs on one of the longest home straights in the country.

Simcock, who won the 2016 Doncaster Cup with stable favourite Sheikhzayedroad, can’t wait to see Rodrigo Diaz over the extended trip and said: “Staying was always going to be his game. He’s a horse who has taken a lot of time to develop and is now getting better and better with racing. The track suits him [Rodrigo Diaz is already a handicap winner at Doncaster this year] and the trip should really suit him too. He also enjoys fast ground.”

Rodrigo Diaz barely beat a rival in his first three races but Simcock, who is eyeing the Melbourne Cup if all goes well here, always felt that he might be decent in time. 

He said: “He’s basically a slow horse, and I don’t mind saying it. He takes his time getting going and doesn’t have much acceleration. As a baby he was like Bambi on ice – two planks of wood stuck together, and with a leg in every county – and we started him at shorter distances because he would never have been strong enough to see out a mile and a half.

“We got the experience into him and got handicapped accordingly. I’d love to say I’d been very clever, but when he was off 59 he really wasn’t training that well at home and in fact he still doesn’t. But going on pedigree, on his stature, and on his looks we were always hopeful he would turn out well down the line.”

He added: “There’s plenty between Rodrigo Diaz and Stradivarius at the weights still, but the fact that he ran so well at Newbury over a trip we felt was inadequate for him gives us hope, as we know there’s going to be improvement when he steps up in trip.”

As for the mooted trip to Flemington, Simcock said: “Half of him has been sold to Australian Bloodstock and we still have the Melbourne Cup in the back of our minds. Although it’s far from straightforward logistically, this year could be as good as any to be involved so far as the depth of the race goes. A decision will be made after Doncaster.”

When Stradivarius won two years ago he started at 1-9 and it was his tenth successive win. The Stradivarius of old would have made short work of this year’s field, but racecourse evidence suggests he is more vulnerable these days. All the same, it would be dangerous to underestimate him.

Trueshan,so impressive in testing ground in last year’s QIPCO Long Distance Cup and more recently in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup, figures among the declarations, but he was a late non-runner in similar circumstances at York last month and underfoot conditions will need to ease significantly for him to take part.

Alan King confirmed: “We need plenty of rain. If it stays as it is he doesn’t run, but he breezed lovely this morning and he’s ready to roll if it comes. They could get five to ten millimetres, so we’ll just wait and see.”

Nobody supports these Cup races better than Mark Johnston, whose outstanding stayer Subjectivist was unfortunately injured after his wide-margin winner of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. He saddles Cup regular Nayef Road, who was second to Stradivarius at Ascot and Goodwood last year, but he has chosen not to declare Dancing King, who had his stamina to prove.

Johnston said: “Nayef Road might not have been running to his absolute best this year but he’s not a long way short of it and he deserves to win one of these. Dancing King is very progressive and he’s built to do it, but two and a quarter miles in this sort of company would have been a big step to take.”

Sir Mark Prescott saddles an interesting candidate in Alerta Roja, 20 years after winning with Alleluia, who had made similar rapid progress through the handicap ranks. While the filly has a stiff task on the bare figures she is certainly not without hope as a three-year-old getting all of the allowances.

He said: “Alerta Roja is wonderfully tough and she’s already exceeded what we thought was possible for her. On the figures she doesn’t have a chance, but we did win it with Alleluia, who was very similar and was also a three-year-old filly.

“Alleluia won five, and this one, who is from the same family, has won three and been Listed placed. While ostensibly she’s got no chance, she seems in good form and she gets a lot of weight. Nothing is impossible with this family.”

The field is completed by Ian Williams’ former Ascot Stakes winner The Grand Visir, who has been placed in the last two runnings of the Queen Alexandra Stakes, and David O’Meara’s Eagles By Day, who has been lightly raced and mainly disappointing since his fourth to Stradivarius at Goodwood last year. The pair were third and fifth respectively behind Spanish Moon in last year’s Doncaster Cup.