A Look at the Group 2 Doncaster Cup
Anthony Honeyball is hoping Jukebox Jive’s proven stamina will help him revive memories of the mighty Double Trigger in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup on Friday.
The two and a quarter mile feature is the fifth leg in the Long Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series and with Stradivarius enjoying a well-earned breather – he has won the first four races in the division – the door is open for another stayer to take centrestage.
Honeyball is much better known for his exploits as a National Hunt trainer and Jukebox Jive, whose last success was achieved over hurdles at Fontwell, is the only horse in his yard to have run on the Flat this year.
The four-year-old carries the colours of Ron Huggins, his owner-breeder, who enjoyed three Doncaster Cup triumphs with Double Trigger. The last of those popular successes was 20 years ago.
“He’s got a fair bit to find and will be the outsider of the lot but I’m not fazed by that. He’s a good solid stayer with a very good attitude,” Honeyball said. “We go there thinking he will have more of a squeak than his price suggests and that he will outrun his odds.
“We can’t explain why he ran so moderately at Ascot last time, when we really fancied him to run well and he went off favourite. He doesn’t really have off days but every horse is entitled to have one.
“He seems absolutely fine and this was always the plan afterwards. He’d been in good form before Ascot and hopefully he will be more competitive this time.”
Lord Yeats and Saunter, who both contested the Sky Bet Ebor at York last month, are untested over the trip but their respective trainers, Jedd O’Keefe and Ian Williams, are confident that the distance will not prove a barrier to success.
O’Keefe, the trainer of Lord Yeats, a son of four-time Gold Cup winner Yeats, said: “We are going into the unknown trip wise but we’d be very hopeful he will stay. He’s definitely bred to stay and when we ran him over mile and seven furlongs in France earlier in the year he had no trouble staying and I remember PJ McDonald saying afterwards we could go as far as we want with him.
“We were thrilled with way he run in Ebor last time but the ground was too lively for him to be at his best. He will be a level above that on slower ground. We don’t need it to be soft or heavy, but the slower side of good is definitely preferable for him.”
Williams is hopeful of similar conditions for Saunter, who will be returning to the scene of his decisive November Handicap win at the end of last season. He had won at Compiegne and Newmarket before finishing ninth in the Ebor on his latest start.
“It was soft when he won the November Handicap and probably plenty quick enough for him in the Ebor,” Williams said. “He’s up in distance but I wouldn’t have entered him if I didn’t think the trip was within his compass. I’d be happy enough he will stay.
“Stradivarius is spending his million quid and it’s a relatively small entry for the race, so well worth us thinking about. It’s a big ask but I’d be confident of him putting up a reasonable performance.”
Willie Mullins is seeking a first win in the race, having been responsible for the runner-up twice in the past three years via Clondaw Warrior (2015) and Thomas Hobson (2017). The latter, the mount of Ryan Moore, attempts to go one better and will be joined in the eight-runner line-up by Max Dynamite, twice placed in the Melbourne Cup, and Renneti. The trio are all owned by Rich Ricci.
Sheikhzayedroad won a thrilling renewal of the Doncaster Cup by a nose in 2016 and was a close third in last year’s renewal. He has been absent since finishing sixth in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and, at the age of nine, would be the second oldest winner since 1843. Persian Punch, who was 10 when successful in 2003, is the oldest winner.
David Simcock, the trainer of Sheikhzayedroad, is also represented by Algometer, runner-up to Marmelo in the Group 2 Prix Maurice de Nieuil at Paris Longchamp in July.