History could be made on the Knavesmire when Stradivarius struts his stuff in the Lonsdale Cup at York on Friday.
The John Gosden-trained four-year-old has carried all before him this season – so much so that he stands on the brink of landing a mammoth bonus for connections by way of the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million.
Victory in the Yorkshire Cup at this track in May has been followed by the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and the successful defence of his Goodwood Cup crown, marking him out as the pre-eminent long-distance performer.
Calm and considered as ever, Gosden has not been getting carried away by the build-up to the £1million moment and made the point it had not been the absolute target from the start of the season.
“It’s not been the be-all and end-all of his year. It’s just happened those races have fitted him well and he has come out on top in all of them, so we’ll see,” said Gosden of the odds-on favourite, who will have the assistance of Frankie Dettori after he missed Goodwood through suspension.
“Nothing is simple as it seems; certainly not that with horses running in races. But we’re happy with him at the moment.
“He ran a valiant race in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and he ran a very tidy race in the Goodwood Cup. He has won nicely at York this year – the Yorkshire Cup – so it’s a track he likes. We’re pleased with him at this stage.”
Willie Mullins runs Max Dynamite, who has claimed second and third in two Melbourne Cups since winning this race in 2015, but whose recent form leaves him with plenty to find on the market leader in another leg of the Qipco British Champions Series.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “There’s great prize-money on offer at York and, as we all know, you should never be afraid of one horse. Stradivarius looks very difficult to beat, but any horse can have an off-day.
“Max Dynamite has twice run really well in Melbourne and we are trying to go there again – a good run in York will put him in line for that.
“The Melbourne Cup is a bit like the Grand National in that horses who run well in it one year tend to run well in it again in another. Max Dynamite has run well in it twice, so maybe it will be third time lucky for him.
“He’s very laid back at home, but he’s holding his form well and has won well there before. He’s been an absolute star and we think he still has more than enough ability to be competitive at this level.”
Further Irish representation comes in the shape of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Idaho, who was a creditable third in the Goodwood Cup on his first try at two miles.
Andrew Balding, meanwhile, has swerved Saturday’s Ebor with Count Octave, preferring the Group-race route instead.
“Obviously he’s got a fair bit to find with Stradivarius on what he’s achieved this year, but he was only beaten a neck by him in the Queen’s Vase last year. Hopefully he can run a good race,” said Balding.
Red Verdon has been a regular in Group-race company for Ed Dunlop this season, while David Elsworth’s Desert Skyline was second to Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup.
St Michel (Sir Mark Prescott), Sir Chauvelin (Jim Goldie) and Petitioner (Roger Charlton) complete the field.