The £140,000 Lonsdale Cup is one of several Group 2 races conducted during the York Ebor Festival each year in August. It takes place on a Saturday, the last day of the four-day festival, sharing the card with the £210,000 totesport.com Ebor – Heritage Handicap.
Back in 1980, this event was known as the Lonsdale Stakes. It was run as a Listed race for Thoroughbreds aged three years or older, covering a distance of one mile, seven furlongs and 198 yards. Reclassification in 1998 took the race to the Group 3 level, and it attained Group 2 status in 2004. That’s when the current name was adopted. Then, in 2007, the course length was extended to two miles and 88 yards.
Nowadays the Lonsdale Cup is conducted on the left-handed turf of York’s Knavemire course. Three-year-old runners carry eight stone one pound, while those four and older bear nine-stone-one. There is an allowance of three pounds for fillies and mares. Penalties are applied to entrants successful in races since 1st November of the preceding year, amounting to five pounds for Group 1 winners and three pounds for Group 2 winners.
In its history, the Lonsdale Cup has had only one sponsor, Weatherbys Insurance, whose backing began in 1997 and has continued without interruption to this day. Many of the leading horses from this event go on to compete in the Doncaster Cup, a two-mile-and-two-furlong race conducted in September.
Four different horses have claimed two victories apiece here. The first of them was Further Flight in 1992-93, the only runner to win the race at back-to-back meetings. Double Eclipse achieved the double with wins in 1995 and 1997, followed by Celeric in 1996 and 1999 and then Persian Punch in 1998 and 2001.
The jockey for Celeric’s second win was Pat Eddery, who had already posted three victories by that time aboard Crusader Castle in 1983, Spicy Story in 1984, Valuable Witness in 1986 and My Patriarch in 1994. To date, no other rider has been able to match those five wins. Willie Carson and Michael Hills each managed only a pair, but Frankie Dettori is still in the hunt, having won atop Sergeant Cecil in 2004 and Opinion Poll in 2010.
Among trainers, John Dunlop tops the leaderboard with four triumphs to his name. His success began with Angel City in 1987 and continued with My Patriarch in 1994, Celeric in 1999 and Millenary in 2005. Trailing him with three victories each are John Dunlop, Barry Hills, David Elsworth and Mark Johnston.
Three-year-olds have not scored well here recently. Double Eclipse was the last of them to win the Lonsdale Cup in 1995. Since then, the four-year-olds have done the best with six wins, while five-year-olds and seven-year-olds have claimed three apiece. Oddly, no six-year-old has reached the finish post first since Further Flight did it in 1992, but a pair of eight-year-olds managed to crack the victory code: Persian Punch and Millenary.
Millenary also has the distinction of being the old winner since the turn of the new millennium to pay out at long odds—12/1. Joint favorite Red Rebel kicked off the decade in 2000 with a 2/1 win, and since then two others have prove the bookmakers right—Bollin Eric paying 7/4 in 2003 and Septimus in 2007 coming in first at 6/5. In 2008 there was no winner, as the race was abandoned due to a waterlogged course.