British Champions Series
William Haggas is hoping Call To Mind can put up a bold showing in the Group 2 MansionBet Yorkshire Cup at York on Friday and in the process give Her Majesty The Queen cause to celebrate 24 hours before the royal wedding.
The Galileo colt carried the royal colours to victory at Newbury and Goodwood last year and features among a final field of eight for the £165,000 contest, run over almost 1m6f and the first race in the staying category of this year’s QIPCO British Champions Series.
Dartmouth, also owned by The Queen, won last year’s renewal and Haggas says Call To Mind has derived great benefit from his reappearance run in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury last month, when he finished fourth to Defoe.
“He’s in great shape, I’m really pleased with him,” the Newmarket-based trainer said. “He’s come out of the race at Newbury really well and I hope he can run well. He needs racing now and he needs a trip, too.
“I was a little bit disappointed with his run at Newbury, but it didn’t go as planned and he also needed that to blow the cobwebs out, plus he wants further. He’s going to get that on Friday and he will go further again (in future) I’m sure.”
The opposition includes four horses who have tasted QIPCO British Champions Series glory, headed by the John Gosden-trained Stradivarius, who won the Qatar Goodwood Cup before going on top finish third in both the William Hill St Leger and QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot.
The other trio are Desert Skyline (2017 Doncaster Cup), Max Dynamite (2015 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes) and Clever Cookie, who seeks to repeat his Yorkshire Cup triumph of 2016. Aged 10, he would become the oldest victor of the race, which was first run in 1927, and only the second two-time winner after Ardross (1981-82).
Count Octave’s efforts last year included a great tussle with Stradivarius in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, when he was beaten by a neck.
The imposing son of Frankel won on his reappearance at Wolverhampton in April and was third to Defoe in the Group 2 Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on his latest start after making much of the running.
“It was a muddling race and not run to suit,” Andrew Balding, his trainer, said. “There’s obviously no way he would have beaten Defoe, anyway, but I felt if maybe we’d made a little bit more use of him he would have been second.
“At the same time if he’d done that we might not have been run back (13 days later) in the Yorkshire Cup. It certainly has not taken an edge off him. The extra two furlongs will suit and I think it’s a track will suit him as well. The faster the ground the better, and I’d hope he will run a decent race.”
Count Octave is entered in the Hardwicke Stakes and Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and, glimpsing ahead to next month, Balding said: “The Hardwicke would not be an option after [the way he ran at] Newmarket, but the Gold Cup could be.”
On To Victory had a handicap rating of 76 this time last year but he put up a personal best on his reappearance when beaten a neck by Mount Moriah in a Listed race at Nottingham last month and is now rated 108. Eve Johnson Houghton says he has improved again for that outing.
The field is completed by the Willie Mullins-trained Wicklow Brave, runner-up to Supasundae in the Betdaq-sponsored Punchestown Champion Hurdle last month. He will be partnered by Andrea Atzeni with Mullins’ other contender, Max Dynamite, the mount of Ryan Moore.
Connections of the winner will be eligible for a £1 million bonus from Weatherbys Hamilton should their horse go on to win the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup. All three are QIPCO British Champions Series races.