The most improved horse of the season, Revolver, will seek to continue his remarkable rise up the ranks by winning the bet365 Doncaster Cup on Friday.
The three-year-old, trained by Sir Mark Prescott, began this season with a modest official rating of 57 but has thrived since having his stamina tested and has reeled off six successive handicap wins under regular rider Luke Morris. The combination have clicked at Pontefract (twice), Redcar, Doncaster, Haydock and Sandown at distances up to 2m 1f.
Revolver’s rating has soared to 98 and his overall profile is very similar to that of Alleluia, who won the Doncaster Cup as a three-year-old for Prescott in 2001 having won five handicaps en route.
“He’s a very tall, leggy, narrow horse but athletic and keeps winning,” Prescott said. “He’s won over 2m 1f at Pontefract, so we know he stays, and the big galloping track at Doncaster suits him. It’s a question of whether he’s good enough. Other horses in there would have a bit more class and have done it time and time again.”
Prescott, 72, who has been training at Heath House in Newmarket for 50 years, did not envisage Revolver proving such a potent force over long distances, or being so prolific.
“He’s by a sprinter [Slade Power] and when we started him we were thinking he would be a seven-furlong or mile horse but he didn’t work particularly well,” he said. “As he went up in distance he stayed and stayed, which you wouldn’t have expected. He works well now that he’s with the stayers. As long as you get it right in the end, as we have with him, then it’s OK, but we don’t always.”
Since 1995, 11 three-year-olds have contested the Doncaster Cup and Prescott has been responsible for six of them. His challengers in the race, whiuch forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, have either won, been placed or run creditably.
He said: “I suppose we specialise in staying three-year-olds but we also won it with Pallasator, too, when he was a six-year-old. Revolver is a very nice horse.”
Trainers have different methods of trying to keep their horses sweet. For instance, Heather Main, who will be represented in Friday’s seven-runner race by Island Brave, often sings to her team as she walks around her Wantage yard in Oxfordshire. Few can match her skills in the vocal department as she’s a trained opera singer who has performed at the Royal Albert Hall and The Barbican.
Luke Morris told us more about Revolver after he won at Sandown
Asked how the horses respond to her singing, Main said: “It’s their TV time, their entertainment. Everyone kind of stops what they are doing: they put their heads over the doors, prick their ears and pay attention. I do it to try and relax the horses, but it’s when the mood takes me. It’s not a daily regime or anything like that.”
Island Brave failed to figure in the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap on his latest start but had previously recorded a ninth career success by sweeping from last to first in impressive style at Ascot under Martin Dwyer, who will be reunited with him.
“He was powering on at the end of his race over two miles at Ascot and we all felt afterwards that the Doncaster Cup would be a good race to aim for,” Main said. “He loves a strong pace in his races but didn’t get that in the Ebor last time. It simply did not work out for him.
“He seems to enjoy being dropped out and moving through horses. It’s a step up in trip but on Friday but if he stays I’d be confident of him running well. He loves his work, has an excellent attitude and has given his owner, Donald Kerr, a lot of fun.”
Ed Dunlop has a Doncaster Cup on his CV, via Times Up in 2013, and he relies on two-time course winner Red Verdon, who landed the Group 2 Prix Maurice de Nieuil under Frankie Dettori, who resumes the partnership, at Longchamp in July. Dettori is seeking a fifth Doncaster Cup success after previous wins on Arcadian Heights (1994), Double Trigger (1996), Sergeant Cecil (2006) and Stradivarius (2019).
Dunlop said: “He seems well, and fingers crossed. It’s competitive, but he’s in good form and we’ll give it a go.”
Andrew Balding saddled last year’s runner-up, Cleonte, and will be hoping to go one better with Spanish Moon. His exploits last season, when trained by David Simcock, included a four-length defeat of Nayef Road in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket and on his latest start he easily beat Selino, who reopposes, by three lengths in a Listed event at Chester.
Barry Irwin, founder and chief executive of Team Valor, who own the horse with Gary Barber, said: "Andrew phoned me on Saturday after he had worked the horse, (and) he was very enthusiastic and very happy. Andrew and I had a long conversation, and his idea was if the horse stays two and a quarter or two and a half miles, he could be an ideal horse for the Ascot Gold Cup next year.
“He does have a turn of foot, which most stayers don’t. He goes to the Doncaster Cup in good form. If he can do it, next year we know what to do. If not, we’ll go back to the drawing board.”
He added: “The long-term goal with this horse is the Melbourne Cup – not this year, but next year when he’s five, and the year after when he’s six and more mature.
Eagles By Day, winner of the Group 3 John Smith's Silver Cup Stakes at York in July, represents David O’Meara, while The Grand Visir, successful at Royal Ascot last year and beaten a neck by Who Dares Wins in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal Meeting this summer, will seek to enhance his fine record in long-distance contests.
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