FROST HOPING JOHN SMITH’S CUP CHALLENGER CAN PROVE “BETTER THAN A HANDICAPPER”

KEVIN FROST holds lofty aspirations for progressive five-year-old Francis Xavier and the Staffordshire-based trainer is looking forward to unleashing his “raging bull” in the John Smith’s Diamond Jubilee Cup at York on Saturday.

Purchased from the Tattersalls July Sale during the corresponding week last year, Francis Xavier won his first two outings for Frost, including a smooth success on the Knavesmire in September.

Pitched into Listed company on his seasonal reappearance at Goodwood, the son of High Chaparral finished seventh behind subsequent winner Elarqam, but Frost outlined how his charge had legitimate excuses for that performance.

“I’m hoping he’s better than a handicapper – he didn’t show that at Goodwood, but he came home ill and was all wrong there,” Frost said.

“He’s bouncing now – like a raging bull – and the plan is very much to run at York. I think he’s improved physically this year.”

One of 46 confirmations for the John Smith’s Diamond Jubilee Cup, Francis Xavier looks likely to have conditions to suit in the £200,000 feature.

“I think he’ll get a mile and a half, and that’s a trip I would like to try in a few runs time when he’s got the tickle out of his toes, but a strongly-run mile and a quarter will be right up his street,” Frost added.

“I know this is a better contest, but he tanked through the race when he won over course and distance last year.”

Reflecting on his purchase of Francis Xavier, a 22,000 guineas buy having won two of his previous four starts for Hugo Palmer, Frost said the gelding is not be the most straightforward to train, but is one with plenty of ability.

“He’s a horse who came with a bit of a reputation – I think he spent more time galloping loose on the main road in Newmarket than he did on the gallops themselves,” Frost said.  

“We’ve had our moments with him. We treat him differently – he goes out before the main string first thing and he’s happier to get done and dusted that way. But so far he’s been professional on the racecourse for us.”

The John Smith’s Diamond Jubilee Cup was first run in 1960 and the race boasts an illustrious roll of honour, including subsequent Group 1 winners Cezanne and Wigmore Hall.

The contest is one of seven scheduled on a high-class card at York, which also features the Listed John Smith’s City Walls Stakes, run over five furlongs, and the John Smith’s Silver Cup Stakes – a one mile and six furlong Group 3.

York’s latest two-day meeting gets underway on Friday, when the afternoon feature will be the Group 3 William Hill Summer Stakes – a six-furlong contest for fillies and mares.

That £65,000 race has attracted 23 entries and they include sprint star Mabs Cross, who was beaten a nose in the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York last season prior to landing the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

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