Roger Varian believes 'career-best' performance may be needed for Defoe to successfully defend Coronation Cup
Roger Varian has conceded it could take a ‘career-best’ display for Defoe to defend his Hurworth Bloodstock Coronation Cup crown tomorrow (3.35pm).
After five attempts at Group 1 level in Britain, France and Germany, the six-year-old finally tasted victory at the top level by edging out the previous year’s winner, Kew Gardens, on the line in 2019.
That was at the mile-and-a-half race’s traditional home of Epsom, but with changes to the calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic, Friday’s instalment of the QIPCO British Champions Series race will take place at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile.
And it has certainly attracted an impressive array of talent, with two-time Gold Cup hero Stradivarius (John Gosden) and last year’s Investec Derby winner, Anthony Van Dyck (Aidan O’Brien) featuring among the seven runners.
Speaking about his grey’s chances of a successful defence, Bury Road-based Varian said: “Defoe’s a horse who tells you when he’s right and is giving us the right messages. He’s on his racing weight, he’s come good in his skin and he seems to have a bounce with him.
“He’s tuned-in for the race, but it might take a career-best to win it because the race looks a touch stronger this year.
“He seemed to really love Epsom last year, when he put it to bed in a few strides and won going away. But, saying that, he’s run well at Newmarket the couple of times he’s performed there and I don’t think the track holds too many fears for him.”
Unlike many horses, Defoe has already had a run this year when he finished second in March’s Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold at Meydan.
“It was a very pleasing run. It was a messy race and he probably should have won on another day,” said Varian.
“I thought he would come on considerably for that run and, of course, we were looking at the Sheema Classic (which got cancelled) three weeks later. As a Sheema prep, I thought it was ideal bar the result. He came home and had a few easier weeks because we knew we would not be racing until June with him.”