Eve Johnson Houghton will hand On To Victory his stiffest assignment to date when saddling him for the G2 MansionBet Yorkshire Cup on the Knavesmire on Friday.
The 4-year-old gelding is proving quietly progressive and opened his 2018 campaign with a close-up second in a listed race at Nottingham.
He has subsequently been raised 5lb, to a career-high rating of 108, and Johnson Houghton feels there is more to come from her charge, who only went down by a neck on his seasonal return.
The Blewbury-based trainer said: “He needed that. He has come on a ton for the run. It’s a long season – he wasn’t wound up for that.”
Even so, Johnson Houghton is aware that her Gold Cup entry will have to improve again to be similarly competitive at York – especially if last year’s Goodwood Cup hero, Stradivarius, is declared for the £165,000 mile and three-quarter contest, which is part of the British Champions Series.
Johnson Houghton said, “Whether he is quite up to beating Stradivarius time will tell. But he is a very progressive horse and I think he’ll improve all year. We’ll know where we’re going after this race. If he’s not good enough for the Gold Cup, then we’ll come back for the Sky Bet Ebor.”
The MansionBet Yorkshire Cup is one of three pattern races on Friday’s seven-race card.
The opener at 2.20pm is a £50,000 listed race for 2-year-olds – the Langleys Solicitors British EBF Marygate Fillies' StakesThat is followed by another £50,000 listed contest, this time for 3-year-olds over a mile, the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Fillies' Stakes.