Curtis hoping to ‘upset the Stradivarius applecart’ in York’s big race
Under-rated jockey Ben Curtis is aiming for his first win in the Qipco British Champions Series on Friday when his eyes are set on the big race of the final day of York’s May meeting.
Curtis, who is based close to York in Thirsk, is set to ride MOOTASADIR in the prestigious Matchbook Yorkshire Cup for stayers, only six weeks after a terrific win aboard the 4yo in the Matchbook Magnolia Stakes at Kempton Park.
It’s a stiff ask against the likes of hot favourite STRADIVARIUS, who swept all before him last season and won the Weatherbys Hamilton £1 million stayers’ bonus.
But the 29-year-old Curtis explained it would be the highlight of his career to date if he was to cross the line first. He said: “If you even get a ride in a Qipco British Champions Series race, it’s a bonus. They are the king of races you want to compete in and they are why you ride out every day. Hopefully, we can go there and do ourselves justice.
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“Trainer Hugo Palmer and I have a lot of faith in the horse. I’ve only ridden him once, but won on him, so it would be nice to keep up that strike rate. Winning a race like this is something every jockey wants, so it’s definitely on my to-do list!”
Expanding on Mootasadir’s chances, Curtis said: “He has an impeccable record on the all-weather, but has yet to reproduce that on the turf. If he can take his all-weather form to York, he should be there or thereabouts. The way he ran in the Magnolia Stakes, he felt like a horse that should go well on turf.
“There are only eight runners in the race and he has a lovely draw in two. Everyone is going into the race to try and upset the Stradivarius applecart.”
The Yorkshire Cup is the opening race in the long-distance category of the 2019 Qipco British Champions Series, which showcases the finest Flat racing. There is more than £20 million worth of prize money available throughout the 35 races of this year’s series.
As well as Stradivarius, Mootasadir’s rivals include MILDENBERGER, to be ridden by three-times champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa for Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston.
De Sousa, who will also be hoping for his first Yorkshire Cup victory, said: “It’s a competitive race, a tough race to win and never easy. But I would love to win it if I could! You never know what’s going to happen in racing, so I hope the horse runs well. To win the Yorkshire Cup would be a dream come true.”
Johnston is the trainer De Sousa has enjoyed the most success with so far in his career, securing 273 wins for him.
Even though he is now being the retained jockey for King Power Racing, the champion jockey explained this hasn’t affected his relationship with Johnston. He said:, “Mark has always been good to me. It’s always nice to receive the call from him and, hopefully, we can enjoy another good day.”
As for Stradivarius, the John Gosden-trained colt, bred and owned by Bjorn Nielsen, is gunning to repeat his exploits of 2018 when he won not only this race, but also the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Qatar Goodwood Cup, the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup, also at York, and the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
In the process, he became only the second horse, after the legendary Frankel in 2012, to win five Qipco British Champions Series races in one season.
Ardross (1981-82) is the only horse to have won two renewals of the Yorkshire Cup, and Stradivarius will have to defy a 3lb penalty if he is to emulate him. Frankie Dettori, his jockey, is seeking a sixth success in the Group Two contest, 28 years after his first, aboard Arzanni.
Dettoris said: “It’s very unusual to have a stayer with such a turn of foot. He’s a great little horse. What he’s done has been remarkable, and we are going to try do it all again. But it’s going to be more difficult with more competition and more miles on his clock.”
Charlie Appleby went close to landing a first Yorkshire Cup with Endless Time in 2017 (she was beaten two necks and a head in a memorable encounter won by Dartmouth), and this time, he relies on ISPOLINI.
The four-year-old son of Dubawi was gelded at the end of last season and has shown improved form in Dubai this year. On his latest start, he chased home stablemate and Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan.
“He was quite a heavy horse and being gelded has been the making of him,” Appleby said: “I geld the horses when I feel it will turn them into a racehorse, rather than have them stand there on the gallops as a good-looking colt.
“As he showed in Dubai, he’s got quite a good gear-change and I think 1m6f is probably his best trip. He gets 2m but I think a dour stayer, a proper Cup horse, will always outstay him over that distance.
“It will be interesting to see how he gets on back in Europe. The one thing I wouldn’t want to run him on is quick ground.”
The Yorkshire Cup is one of the few big races in Great Britain to have eluded Aidan O’Brien. The master of Ballydoyle seeks to put that right via SOUTHERN FRANCE, who finished third in the William Hill St Leger last season and shaped well when filling the same position on his return in the Group 3 Sequence Events Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan.
THIS article has been kindly provided by Great British Racing,