Sonny Liston challenging for big York handicap prize

Sonny Liston will be attempting to land a knockout blow at York on Saturday when he lines up in the John Smith’s Cup.

Ralph Beckett’s charge was outboxed by stablemate Jimi Hendrix when second in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot but now has the chance to get the judge’s verdict as one of 33 who remain in contention for the valuable £200,000 contest.

Owned by Chelsea Thoroughbreds, the four-year-old has not had his hand raised since striking on debut when trained by Charlie Hills, but connections are banking on the gelding relishing a step up to 10 furlongs to return him to the winner’s enclosure.

“He runs off his old mark and we wanted to get him in somewhere off that mark,” said Emma Spencer, managing director of Chelsea Thoroughbreds and also racing manager for the owners.

“He’s proven over a mile and a quarter and although he didn’t stay in the Derby, he was third at Chester in the Dee Stakes and then he was third in a Group Three at Goodwood.

“So there is a case for saying that a mile and a quarter is his ideal trip and if he runs like he did the other day and he seems to be in a good place then the race could really suit him.”

Richard Fahey’s course-and-distance winner and last year’s fourth Spirit Dancer is also among the possibles for the historic 10-furlong handicap, with Simon and Ed Crisford’s Sea The Casper, William Haggas’ Amleto and Andrew Balding’s Nobel all potential improvers who head to the Knavesmire appearing unexposed and on the back of victories last time.

Also looking to go one better than at Royal Ascot is Kerdos who will line-up in the John Smith’s City Walls Stakes.

The three-year-old son of Profitable was downed late on by Rhythm N Hooves when a silver medallist in the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes and trainer Clive Cox hopes he can get in the mix once again as he steps up to Listed level.

“Kerdos ran a blinder at Ascot and the Listed race at York, the City Walls Stakes, that would be our next target for him,” said the Lambourn-based handler.

“Obviously it is against older horses, but he’s a progressive three-year-old who we are really happy is going the right way.

“We know the family very well. I trained his sire Profitable and he’s out of a half-sister to Priceless who was a Group Two winner in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. They normally progress with age and this fella seems to fit that profile well.”

Kerdos is one of 17 possible runners for the five-furlong Listed event, with Edward Bethell’s Regional chief featuring in the opposition following his Achilles Stakes victory at Haydock last month.

Achilles second and third Equilateral (Charlie Hills) and Raasel (Mick Appleby) are also involved, while Fahey’s Great State was a winner of the Listed Westow Stakes over course and distance during the Dante meeting and will be bidding to provide his Malton-based handler with more success at one of his local tracks.

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