Goodwood Festival Countdown

Dee Ex Bee takes on Stradivarius in Gold Cup

Record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston opened the doors to his Kingsley House Stables in Middleham, North Yorkshire on Wednesday morning for a media visit organised by Goodwood Racecourse ahead of the 2019 Qatar Goodwood Festival, which runs from Tuesday, July 30 to Saturday, August 3 inclusive.

Johnston, Britain’s winning-most trainer of all time, has already sent out 150 winners this season and recorded the highest-ever total of successes in a British season last term with 230 victories.

The Glasgow-born trainer is no stranger to success at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, with 78 winners, second to Sir Michael Stoute (80 winners) among current trainers at the five-day meeting.

Johnston has also captured the Qatar Goodwood Festival’s top trainer award on 12 occasions, including in four of the last five years. Overall, he is responsible 147 winners at Goodwood since his first one at the West Sussex course in 1991.

The handler’s squad for this year’s Qatar Goodwood Festival is headed by classy stayer Dee Ex Bee, who is set to renew his rivalry with Gr1 Gold Cup conqueror Stradivarius (John Gosden) in the £500,000 Gr1 Qatar Goodwood Cup over two miles on the opening day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, Tuesday, July 30. The Qatar Goodwood Cup is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

The four-year-old son of Farhh finished second in the 2018 renewal of the G1 Investec Derby at Epsom Downs and began this season with convincing victories in the G3 Sagaro Stakes and G3 Henry II Stakes, both run over two miles.

Gold Cup hope Dee Ex Bee

The front-running Dee Ex Bee was a length behind Stradivarius at Royal Ascot over two miles and four furlong, but Johnston is hoping the drop back in trip will not inconvenience his charge, who bids to give the trainer a sixth Qatar Goodwood Cup success following the record-breaking Double Trigger (1995, 1997, 1998), Royal Rebel (2000) and Darasim (2004).

Discussing his stable star, Johnston said: “Dee Ex Bee is in very good form and we have been happy with him since Royal Ascot. He hasn’t done any fast work, but he is looking really well. We know it is going to be a tall order taking on Stradivarius again and that it is not ideal dropping back in trip.

“Going into the Gold Cup, we weren’t sure if he was going to be suited by the extra half-mile, but he showed at Royal Ascot that he got every inch of the trip and he wouldn’t have minded a little bit more.

“There is absolutely nothing we can do about Stradivarius. We can’t belittle him and we are not sure if he has any chinks in his armour.

“You never run away from one horse. Maybe Dee Ex Bee has more stamina than him, but Stradivarius has won two Gold Cups! It would suit us if the Goodwood Cup is more of a test of stamina, but there is nothing we can do about that.

“In my opinion, tactics don’t win you races, they only get you beat. My opinion is whoever runs the two miles of the Goodwood Cup or the mile of the 2,000 Guineas fastest, wins. That has been the policy throughout my career. I worked that out before I was given a training licence and that is the policy I have adopted for 32 years.

“Tactics are sometimes forced on me by owners and employed by jockeys, but generally I never set out with a plan.

Dee Ex Bee works out for the media

“It occurred to me at Royal Ascot that Stradivarius is the people’s horse. I was oblivious to it beforehand in the same way that I was oblivious to Double Trigger being the people’s horse, even more so than Stradivarius maybe because of his colour and longevity.

“I was asked recently what race stood out for me most emotionally and that was Double Trigger’s final Goodwood Cup (1998), where I was staggered by the amount of trainers, their husbands and wives who were running to the winner’s enclosure to see Double Trigger – that is something I have not seen before or since! I wouldn’t be doing it for Stradivarius!

“Other races to consider for Dee Ex Bee throughout the season are the Doncaster Cup and the Prix du Cadran, races which would not have Stradivarius in. The Prix du Cadran is usually run at a very slow pace, but that race on soft ground could suit him right down to the ground.

“I think Dee Ex Bee is still on an upward trajectory. We have learned more about him this year. He is clearly a horse that needs a test of stamina. Everybody thought his run at Goodwood last year in the Gordon Stakes [12f, second to subsequent G1 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter] was a poor effort.

“Little did we know that Cross Counter would go on to win the Melbourne Cup. It just highlights that there is this tendency when a favourite gets beat that it is a poor performance! Sometimes it is never the poor performance that many people thought it was at the time.”

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