EVE Johnson Houghton will hand On To Victory his stiffest assignment to date when saddling him for the Group 2 MansionBet Yorkshire Cup on the Knavesmire this Friday.
The four-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 at Royal Ascot 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 two-year-olds – the Langleys Solicitors British EBF Marygate Fillies’ Stakes.
That is followed by another £50,000 Listed contest, this time for three-year-olds over a mile – the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Fillies’ Stakes.
The Dante Festival at York runs from Wednesday, May 16 to Friday 18 May inclusively.