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Desert Skyline ready for Doncaster Cup mission

13 Sep 2017

David Elsworth hoping his three-year-old can upstage older rivals in Town Moor marathon

Sheikhzayedroad was the thrilling winner of the Doncaster Cup last year and returns to defend his crown. Picture:

David Elsworth is hopeful Desert Skyline can upstage older rivals and provide him with a second success in the Doncaster Cup (3.35) on Friday.

The Newmarket-based trainer previously won the two-and-a-quarter mile feature, which forms part of the Long Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series, with Persian Punch in 2003.

Desert Skyline, a three-year-old gelding, is built nothing like him and has yet to win a Pattern contest but he has run a string of fine races this year – including when placed behind leading William Hill St Leger hopes Raheen House (in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket) and Stradivarius (Qatar Goodwood Cup).

Had Desert Skyline not been been ineligible, he might have re-opposed that pair in the final Classic of the season at Doncaster on Saturday.

“Geldings are not allowed in the St Leger, so I suggested that I volunteer to do a transplant at the local veterinary practice but they wouldn’t do it, or couldn’t,” Elsworth said mischievously. “If you look at his form, then running in it might not have been such a ludicrous idea.

“Desert Skyline is not a great specimen – he’s a lightly framed whippet of a horse – but it’s not the size of the dog that fights, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. His physical make-up is not a concern to us.

“He’s very athletic, seems to stay very well and is certainly very consistent plus, as a three-year-old, he gets plenty of weight from the older horses. We are not over-confident but we think it’s worth a shot and I suppose one would think would think he will figure in shake-up.”

Desert Skyline’s previous run in a QIPCO British Champions Series contest ended with a creditable third behind Stradivarius and Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup last month, when he had She Is No Lady (fifth), Pallasator (sixth), Sheikhzayedroad (seventh) and High Jinx (twelfth) behind.

Elsworth, 77, said: “We decided to supplement for £25,000 for the Goodwood Cup and, while he never looked like winning, it turned out to be one of our better ideas because he earned £56,000.

“At this time last year if you had said I was going to be running him over two and a quarter miles in the Doncaster Cup I might have said that was optimistic, but they do sometimes come out of the pack and surprise us. He’s progressed all the time and we are hoping for another good run.”

Montaly, trained by Andrew Balding, was a thrilling winner of the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes at York last month. The six-year-old prevailed by a nose from Dartmouth, with Sheikhzayedroad (fourth), High Jinx (fifth) and Thomas Hobson (seventh) among the support cast. However, he is burdened with a 3lb penalty for that narrow success and so must concede 15lb to Desert Skyline.

Sheikhzayedroad won the Doncaster Cup by a nose last year, when the also-rans included Clever Cookie. He seeks to emulate the most recent back-to-back winners in Times Up (2012-13) and Millenary (2004-05). The field is completed by the Hughie Morrison-trained Fun Mac, narrow winner of a Listed race in France on his latest start.