Mark Johnston is gunning for leading stayer Stradivarius this season having his stand out marathon runner Dee Ex Bee primed for the Ascot Gold Cup at the Royal Meeting.
Johnston has landed the feature race on the Thursday at Royal Ascot three times during his career as a trainer and he believes he has one of his strongest chances for a many years, calling Dee Ex Bee a "dream stayer".
It has been 17 years and counting since the trainer landed the Ascot Gold Cup with Royal Rebel back in 2002 but his four year old this season looks to have all the attributes of going close in the big race.
Dee Ex Bee last year finished second in the Epsom Derby to the surprise of many but since then, whenever he has been upped to marathon trips has looked a class above and at the moment looks to be one of the leading contenders to knock John Gosden's Stradivarius off his perch.
Johnston thinks his colt is tailor-made for the job and he will follow a route he has used with other horses he has placed in the run up to the big race on June 20 in Thursday's Group 3 Matchbook-backed Henry II Stakes at Sandown.
(Credit Racing Post) The trainer said: "If I go back to one of the years Royal Rebel won the Gold Cup, I had five in the Henry II Stakes that year and won it with Akbar.
"Back in those days I was a huge believer in giving these Gold Cup horses a couple of runs and we do think if Dee Ex Bee wasn't running in the Henry II Stakes he would need to be doing some fairly serious work to ensure he was 100 per cent for the Gold Cup. Our inclination at the moment is to run."
The Godolphin bred colt is currently a best price of 12/1 to land the Royal Ascot feature which for us seems slightly overpriced bringing some smart form in the race with a good fourth in last year's St Leger and the aforementioned runner up in the Derby.
Dee Ex Bee on his only run to date this season stepped up to two miles for the first time in his career and revelled in the experience going on to win the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.
The staying division is very arguably there for the taking, even though they do have to overcome the superstar Stradivarius, you can argue he has not beat anything special and this year's Ascot Gold Cup will be his hardest test to date.
What a race this seasons Gold Cup at the Royal meeting is set to be.