Once bitten, twice shy they say…. So, having tried to take on Stradivarius at Royal Ascot on the premise that perhaps he isn’t at his best on soft ground, that notion was proved completely futile when John Gosden’s star stayer went and sluiced through the mud to win a third Ascot Gold Cup.
Since that day though, Stradivarius was set on an Arc path, which ultimately culminated with a luckless run two weekends ago in Paris, when he was hugely disadvantaged by a lack of any pace in the race. But that said, I do think that it could prove a smart enough tactic to look elsewhere in the opening race on QIPCO British Champions Day this Saturday.
Having been thwarted by an Aidan O’Brien stayer in two out of the last three editions of the Long Distance Cup, the first place to look for a value each-way bet against Stradivarius is to Ballydoyle again, and more specifically the smart and progressive three-year-old Dawn Patrol – who at 12/1 generally is surely going to go off a shorter price on the day should he turn up.
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Aidan O’Brien has three entered for the opener on Saturday, and having won it with Order of St George and Kew Gardens, he clearly likes to target some of his better stayers at the race, which would give you confidence that he sees Dawn Patrol as future Cup horse in the making. He looks the pick of his trio, given the other two entered are Broome and Sovereign, who have both gone a little off the boil.
Dawn Patrol however, is simmering nicely when it comes to his form this season. Having stepped forward from his two introductory maiden efforts to put in a hugely eye-catching third in the Irish Derby, he then went and broke his maiden easily at Naas. Before stepping up in class again to chase home the sharply progressive Joseph O’Brien-trained filly Pista, who has since run a cracker in second in the Group 1 Prix De Royallieu.
The St Leger at Doncaster was Dawn Patrol’s next assignment, and in being ridden quietly off the pace on ground lively enough, he made some nice late headway without being subjected to a tough race – the benefit of which was seen when sluicing through a decent field to win a Group 3 over 2 miles at the Curragh.
It is no surprise that granted the stiffest test of stamina of his career at the Curragh last time, Dawn Patrol suddenly took his form to a new level – being related to multiple winners over 1m4f+ and on soft ground, his most notable sibling is ¾-brother Pour Moi, who won the Epsom Derby, but has also proved himself a sire of strong staying soft-ground loving stock.
Saturday’s Long Distance Cup will be the toughest, most stamina-sapping assignment that Dawn Patrol has faced, and one that he can flourish in – so at 12/1 he rates as a fair each-way bet to down the hot favourite Stradivarius, giving Aidan O’Brien a third victory in this race in the last four renewals.