The third day of the four-day Ebor Festival at York maybe headlined by the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes but for many the Friday highlight will be this race for the stayers.
The Lonsdale Cup was introduced in 1980 and has become one of the top long distance flat races in the calendar, making up part of the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Series.
In 2018 John Gosden’s Stradivarius secured a £1 million bonus when winning the Lonsdale Cup in the same season as winning the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup. This feat was repeated by Stradivarius in 2019 to claim a second successive Weatherbys Hamilton Stayer’s Million bonus, and his place amongst the great long distance competitors.
Lonsdale Cup Course Map
Lonsdale Cup Past Winners
|John & Thady Gosden
|P J McDonald
|Quest For More
|Saeed bin Suroor
|Silvestre De Sousa
|Mahmood Al Zarooni
|Sir Michael Stoute
About the Lonsdale Cup: One of the Highlight’s of York’s Ebor Meeting
The Lonsdale Cup is a flat horse race which is run at York racecourse. The two mile race is run in August of each year and is open to horses aged three years and over. The Lonsdale Cup is held on day three of the four day Ebor Festival meeting, and the most successful horses who compete are often seen shortly after in September’s Doncaster Cup which is just over one and a half furlongs longer in distance.
The event first took place in 1980 under the title of the Lonsdale Stakes, and was run over a distance of one mile, seven furlongs and 198 yards; the inaugural contest was won by the horse Heighlin. For many years the contest was classed as a Listed race, before being promoted to the status of Group 3 in 1998. Upon another class change in 2004, when the race was upgraded once again to a Group 2, the race was renamed the Lonsdale Cup. The distance was extended by another 78 yards to its current length in 2007.
In 1994 Cuff Link was past the post first, but was relegated to second place after a stewards’ enquiry. The event was abandoned in 2008 as the course was too waterlogged for the runners to compete.
The Ebor Festival is one of the biggest in the flat racing calendar, and as such it attracts the very best of jockeys and trainers alike to the racecourse. This is evident from the list of winning jockeys such as Richard Quinn, Darryll Holland and Silvestre De Souza. However these famous jockeys are nowhere near the record held by Frankie Dettori. The champion jockey has ridden seven winners, two ahead of his nearest rival, Pat Eddery who has five.
Dettori and Eddery’s 12 wins cover 38 years between the two of them, from Eddery’s first win in 1983 on Crusader Castle to Dettori’s latest win in 2021 on Stradivarius. In 2019, Stradivarius also ran the Lonsdale Cup in the fastest time yet since the 78 yard distance extension in 2007, running the race in 3:27.82
The leading trainer in the event to date is John Dunlop having first struck success in 1994 with Angel City, and finishing his tally on five wins in 2012 with Times Up. John Gosden is second on the list of most successful trainers with four followed by Mark Johnson, David Elsworth and Barry Hills next all on three wins in the competition at the time of writing.
Going the Distance
There are many aspects that need to be assessed when choosing a winning horse in the Lonsdale Cup. First of all the horse needs to be bred for, and have previously run over, the same distance as many horses who enter into races of this length and class simply cannot stay the distance. Another aspect when regarding the distance is the weight the horse carries; there is a 10 pound difference between three year olds and those aged four and over, not to mention the three pound allowance for fillies and mares, and the three pound penalty for previous Group 1 winners. When running a distance of two miles the weight becomes a much bigger factor than in sprint races.
When looking at trends we can see that since the distance was changed in 2007, it has basically eradicated the older runners from claiming first place as can be seen in the chart below. From 2007 to 2019, 71.5% of the races have been won by four or five year olds, with the remaining 28.5% coming from six and seven year olds. In the nine years prior to 2007, 56% of the races were won by seven or eight year olds. This really is a staggering statistic as the addition of a mere 78 yards seems to have changed the winners’ profile to a significant degree.