Luca Cumani has always been a handler to keep on-side in handicap contests and he’s scored numerous big races in the sphere down the years, but one that has thus far escaped him is the John Smith’s Cup.
This year the trainer has high hopes that could all change, with Validus, Mobacco and Gabrial The Great all entered.
His knack in such races for horses aged four and above is vouched for by a strike rate that has dipped below 23 per cent in just one of the past five campaigns.
York too has been a happy hunting ground for the man who swapped Milan for Newmarket, with three wins in the course’s prestigious Ebor handicap during his training career.
Furthermore, whilst he’s yet to draw blood upon the Knavesmire with his three runners so far this term, he enjoyed plenty of success with older runners here in 2012, sending out five winners from just 13 attempts in races for those aged four and above.
Despite such a history of success, the John Smith’s Cup – and the £150,000 sugar lump it promises – has eluded his four runners since 2002, with just one of them making the places.
Cumani told Sky Sports the race is one “I’d dearly love to win” and suggested that – of his three entrants – Validus was the most likely runner.
The four-year-old has yet to score beyond a mile, but he has performed with credit in his sole try over further, which came upon his season bow.
He had a fair shout of a close third before being heavily hampered inside the final furlong behind Area Fifty One on that occasion and the latter has done the form a service since, winning off a 5lb higher mark last time out.
Validus followed up that run with a second in the competitive Seaton Deleval handicap back over 1m at Newcastle last time – a run which Cumani felt was a career best – and like his trainer will arrive at the contest in top form.
Whilst the 24 runners to leave Bedford Stables since the June 21st have yielded just three winners, 12 more have finished second or third and the trainer’s 16/1 shot could be one to keep an eye on if the rain stays away, with Cumani insisting fast ground is the key for his charge.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.