Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby believes Copper Knight should not be underestimated in Friday’s Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York as the four-time course winner will relish racing at his home track.
Easterby, who trained Hamish McGonagall to finish second in the 2011 Nunthorpe at odds of 28-1, trains at Habton Grange Stables, 45 minutes away from the Knavesmire, and has been encouraged by the recent form of Copper Knight.
Speaking to QIPCO British Champions Series, Easterby said: “He’s in great form, loves the track and with a bit of luck he should finish in a place. He wasn’t enough [when well-held behind Battaash in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood] although he didn’t act on the track very well.
“I couldn’t tell you what it is that he likes so much about York. Some horses hate the place, some like it. There’s no rhyme or reason to it but it’s a nice track to be effective at.”
The Nunthorpe is no stranger to producing big-priced winners as Bryan Smart’s Alpha Delphini scored by the narrowest of margins to win at 40-1 last year, while there was an even bigger shock back in 2010 when Sole Power took the contest at 100-1.
Preparations for Copper Knight’s run in the Nunthorpe have gone smoothly and Easterby said: “We keep him quiet, preserve his energy for the races. Rachel Richardson rides him out every day and we don’t do anything fancy with him – just keep him happy and bright.”
Mabs Cross was just denied by Alpha Delphini in a thrilling renewal of the race in 2018 and the Michael Dods-trained mare is one of three Group 1 winners in this year’s field alongside Battaash and Ten Sovereigns.
Ten Sovereigns returned to his very best with a convincing victory in the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket last month and has thrived since dropping back from a mile. The son of No Nay Never has not raced over the minimum five furlongs before but the margin of his July Cup win suggests he has enough pace for the race.
Friday will also see star stayer Stradivarius contest the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup once again as he bids to land the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million for the second year in succession. Bjorn Nielsen’s homebred will face four runners in his quest to do so including his old foe, the Mark Johnston-trained Dee Ex Bee.
Another of his rivals is the Moyglare Stud Farm homebred Falcon Eight, who has made rapid progress since making his debut 13 months ago, having won three of his five races.
Trained by Dermot Weld, the four-year-old was last seen getting the better of Mekong by a head in the Listed Coral Marathon at Sandown in July.
Oisin Murphy will take over from Frankie Dettori in Friday’s two-mile event and speaking to QIPCO British Champions Series, Murphy said: “He’s an improving horse who’s from an excellent family, by Galileo. I’m thrilled to get the leg up on him, it was my only chance of a ride in the race, and I’ll be doing my best to run down Stradivarius in the final stages.
“Falcon Eight’s strength is that he’s a strong stayer, so I’ll hope it’s a decent test. I know Stradivarius from seeing him gallop that he’s got a very good turn of foot. So, I wouldn’t want to be setting up the race for Frankie.
“Stradivarius never wins by big margins, but he always wins. And unfortunately for the rest of us challenging him, he’s probably the best stayer we’ve seen in recent times.”