This year’s Yorkshire Cup once again revolves around Stradivarius, who is aiming to collect the Stayers’ Million bonus for the second year running, having scooped the prize in its inaugural year last season.
To do so, he would need to follow up victory here with wins at Royal Ascot (in the Gold Cup), Glorious Goodwood (Goodwood Cup) and the Ebor meeting back here at the end of August (Lonsdale Cup), though the relative ease in which he achieved the feat last season means that he is as short as 11/2 with bookmakers to do so at the time of writing.
Indeed, victory in the Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot last October meant that Stradivarius became the first Ascot Gold Cup winner to go through the full season unbeaten since Pardallo in 1968, and he was largely untroubled for the most of his campaign, too, only being sternly pushed when defeating the multiple Group 1-winning stayer Vazirabad by three quarters of a length in the Gold Cup last June.
Still only a five-year-old, Stradivarius arrives back at the Yorkshire Cup as the clear leader in the staying division and everything points to a strong follow-up bid here, for all that he is conceding a 3 lb Group 1 penalty to the field, and this year’s renewal looks slightly more competitive than it did 12 months ago.
The biggest danger looks to be the Godolphin-owned four-year-old Ispoloni, who has 3 lb to find with Stradivarius on Timeform ratings, and arrives here after a productive winter at Meydan, picking up two wins before producing a career-best effort to finish second to the Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter in the Dubai Gold Cup on his first try over two miles. He made his illustrious stablemate fight for that win, only being headed inside the final furlong, and he’s open to more improvement yet at staying trips.
All but one of Stradivarius’ seven rivals are four-year-olds, and another unexposed type taking his chance is Southern France for Aidan O’Brien, who had only hinted on Tuesday that he would skip this and instead head to Leopardstown on Friday. Unraced at two, Southern France isn’t short on stamina, and he was a steady improver over staying trips last season, producing his best effort to date when finishing a fine third behind the talented pair of Kew Gardens and Lah Ti Dar in the St Leger at Doncaster last September, giving the impression that he could develop into the perfect ‘Cup’ horse this term. He should arrive here sharp having been given a considerate ride when third on reappearance in a Group 3 at Navan last month, and he’s very much a stayer to be positive about this season.
Two more to consider are Mildenberger and Mootasadir. The latter can boast a perfect 6-6 record on the All-Weather, and he has progressed rapidly on that surface over the winter, producing a career-best effort to win a listed contest at Kempton in March. He’s untried at this trip, however, and needs to prove he can translate his very smart form on synthetics to turf, having disappointed in each of his two tries on the grass so far. Mildenberger only made the track twice in his three-year-old season, but he proved better than ever when stepped up to a mile and a half at Newbury last month, finishing third in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes, and there could be more to come for all that the extra two furlongs here is an unknown.
One rival with whom Stradivarius will be far more familiar is Desert Skyline, who produced a career-best effort to finish three lengths-second behind that rival in this race last year, when having to concede 3 lb. However, he has largely struggled to replicate that form since, and four subsequent defeats to Stradivarius on more favourable terms means that he’s now failed to defeat him in eight attempts, and is almost certainly playing for place money at best on reappearance. The field is completed by Aircraft Carrier and Sevenna Star, both of whom have plenty to find on Timeform ratings with the principals, and arrive here with something to prove having disappointed on their most recent outings.
In conclusion, it’s very difficult to get away from Stradivarius, who is the clear leader in this division, and should make a very bold bid to win the Stayers’ Million bonus for the second year running. However, there is little value in backing him at around the 6/4-on mark, and it looks worth putting Stradivarius in a forecast with Southern France, who is 7/1 at the time of writing. He has something to find on Timeform ratings with several of these, but was a steady improver last season, and appeals as the type who can make up into a ‘Cup’ performer this term, and a big run is expected.
Back the Stradivarius/Southern France forecast in Friday’s Yorkshire Cup