A rematch between Stradivarius (John Gosden) and Dee Ex Bee (Mark Johnston) is set to provide the best possible start to the Qatar Goodwood Festival on Tuesday 30th July.
The two stayers head 13 confirmations for the highlight of day one, the £500,000 G1 Qatar Goodwood Cup (3.35pm) over two miles. A length separated the duo last time out in the G1 Gold Cup over two and a half miles at Royal Ascot on 20th June, with Stradivarius coming out on top.
Stradivarius, who was homebred by owner Bjorn Nielsen, is seeking a record-equalling third success in the Qatar Goodwood Cup following victories in 2017 and 2018. The five-year-old Sea The Stars horse is now unbeaten in his last seven starts. If successful on Tuesday and in York’s G2 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup on 23rd August, Stradivarius would scoop the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million, with its £1-million bonus, for the second year in succession.
Dee Ex Bee represents Britain’s winning-most trainer of all time, Mark Johnston, who was responsible for the only three-time winner of the Qatar Goodwood Cup, Double Trigger (1995, 1997 & 1998) as well as Royal Rebel (2000) and Darasim (2004). Prior to his Gold Cup second, Dee Ex Bee had won two G3 contests over two miles in 2019 – Ascot’s Sagaro Stakes and the Henry II Stakes at Sandown Park. The highlight of his three-year-old career was filling the runner-up spot in the G1 Derby at Epsom Downs behind Godolphin’s Masar.
Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer to his father, gave an update on Dee Ex Bee saying: “Dee Ex Bee is in good form and everything has been A1 with him since Royal Ascot.
“It is all systems go for the Goodwood Cup, but we are under no illusions about the task facing us with Stradivarius once again.
“Dee Ex Bee has been ticking over nicely and not much has changed with him or indeed the field he is likely to face on Tuesday.
“We will be facing the same rivals as in the Gold Cup, but we’re looking forward to running.
“It is going to be a big challenge to win the contest, but he’s a top-class horse and hopefully he can serve it up to his rivals!”
Also going forward for the Qatar Goodwood Cup is Godolphin’s Cross Counter (Charlie Appleby), winner of Australia’s greatest race the G1 Melbourne Cup in 2018 and a close fourth at Royal Ascot to Stradivarius.
Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien, successful with the great Yeats in 2006 and 2008 Goodwood Cups, has six remaining contenders headed by G1 St Leger third Southern France plus the three-year-olds South Pacific and Constantinople, who could step up in class and distance, having finished first and second respectively in the King George V Handicap over a mile and a half at Royal Ascot.
Another trainer with more than one entry is Andrew Balding, who could be represented by Cleonte, successful in the marathon Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot, and Dashing Willoughby, winner of the G2 Queen’s Vase over 14 furlongs at the same meeting.
An interesting contender is Wells Farhh Go (Tim Easterby), trained like Dee Ex Bee in Yorkshire, who shaped well on his seasonal return when taking the 12-furlong Listed Fred Archer Stakes at Newmarket on 29th June, but has yet to race over two miles.
The Qatar Goodwood Cup is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
The main supporting action on Tuesday is the £313,950 G2 Qatar Lennox Stakes (3.00pm) over seven furlongs. There are 17 horses going forward, including Zaaki (Sir Michael Stoute) who was supplemented at a cost of £15,000 following his nose second in the G2 Summer Mile at Ascot on 13th July. The four-year-old won his other two races this year, a Listed race at Ascot and a G3 contest at Epsom.
Last year’s G1 French 2,000 Guineas runner-up Hey Gaman (James Tate) could turn out quickly after finishing second in the G2 Minstrel Stakes over seven furlongs at the Curragh, Ireland, on 20th July. That performance came on the back of victories in the Listed King Charles II Stakes at Leicester and the G3 Prix du Palais-Royal at Longchamp, France.
Flaming Spear is ready for his first start of the year after impressing trainer Dean Ivory in his homework. The talented seven-year-old posted a career-best over this course and distance in August when defeating Cape Byron in a valuable handicap. Flaming Spear has not raced since capturing the Listed Hyde Stakes on Polytrack at Kempton Park in November.
Ivory said: “Flaming Spear has been working very well and is ready to go. I am a patient trainer and have not been in any hurry with him this year. You know the summer is nearly always going to be fast ground so there is no harm in waiting.
“He is in the Qatar Lennox Stakes and whether he goes there is subject to the ground. He does not want it any faster than good. We will have to see how the weather plays out, as he is also in the big seven-furlong handicap at Ascot on Saturday.”
Aidan O’Brien could be doubly represented with Le Brivido, last in action when fifth in the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs at Royal Ascot, and three-year-old Never No More, not seen since readily landing a Listed contest at Leopardstown in April.
One Master (William Haggas) is a real seven-furlong specialist, having taken the G1 Qatar Prix de la Foret over the distance at Longchamp in October. Space Traveller (Richard Fahey) is also a winner over the distance, having landed the G3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot last time out.
Two previous winners of the Qatar Lennox Stakes also go forward – last year’s winnerSir Dancealot (David Elsworth) and 2017 scorer Breton Rock (David Simcock).
International interest is provided by a challenger from Singapore in Lim’s Cruiser (Stephen Gray). A G1 winner in Singapore, Lim’s Cruiser has run twice in the UK so far this year, coming home sixth on his latest start in the G1 Darley July Cup.