Champion Stayer Stradivarius Chasing Fourth Straight Gold Cup At Royal Ascot - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Champion Stayer Stradivarius Chasing Fourth Straight Gold Cup At Royal Ascot

Stradivarius on Warren Hill

The legendary stayer Stradivarius is bidding to add another string to his bow this Thursday at Royal Ascot as he attempts to emulate Yeats (2006 – 2009) by winning a fourth Gold Cup, the flagship race of the week.

The 8-year-old chestnut with four white socks, trained by John & Thady Gosden and ridden by QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Famer Frankie Dettori, has captured the hearts and minds of the British public since his breakthrough year as a three-year-old in 2017, when he won the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot and went on to win the prestigious Goodwood Cup.

The 'Mighty Mouse' as he is known at home at Gosdens' Clarehaven Stables, due to his small stature but incredible power and speed, has gone on to break numerous records on the track since, with his victory in the Yorkshire Cup at York last month making him the record holder for most European Group race wins (18).

Bred and owned by Bjorn Nielsen, Stradivarius has earned more than £5 million in prize money and run more than 64 miles on the racecourse, while at home it is estimated that he has run more than 8,000 miles up Warren Hill at the training grounds in Newmarket, roughly a third of the earth's circumference.

John Gosden, trainer of Stradivarius, said of his incredible star: “It's great to have him still running so well at this level. He's won the Yorkshire Cup this year, and let's hope he goes and puts in a big one at Ascot.

“In Flat stables you don't normally have horses around for as long as he's been with us. They are usually moving on at three, four or five. He's become part of the place, but I think he deserves another form of life, which I think he'll really enjoy.

“You'd have to argue that he was probably in his prime at five, maybe six, and at eight you have to face facts. It's like the boxer getting back in the ring too late in their career, but he's up for it at the moment.”

On Stradivarius' running style, Gosden added: “He gets the job done. He's like an old pro now – he knows what he wants to do and how he's going to do it. He goes in the ring, he does what he has to do, and then it's back home. He's not going to do anything exuberant these days – none of this winning by wide margins. He boxes a bit cleverly.

“He's very vociferous, shouting and playing about, but he's got a good mind, he's tough, and he enjoys his training. He's a very fun and enjoyable horse to train, and you can't say that about all of them.

“It's down to the horse. When you have one with the soundness, the heart, the constitution and the mind you are lucky, and you just go with it. It's not so much down to the trainer – it's down to the trainer clocking what he's got.”

Bradley Bosley, who looks after and rides Stradivarius on a daily basis, said: “I've been riding him for about 18 months, he's a good ride really. You take him out on the Heath and he's quite quiet, up until he sees oncoming horses, when he just changes. He grows a bit, arches his neck and starts whinnying at them to let them know he's there.

“People ask what he feels like in a gallop, but to be honest he just feels like a normal horse because he doesn't overexert himself. He'll do his job, but he's quite reserved. He'll just back off it at the top of Warren Hill and look after himself a bit. He's well clued up.

“I started two years ago, having joined from Godolphin, just before lockdown. He's such an iconic horse I was so thrilled to get to ride him for the first time I got my picture taken on him. Then when we came out of the winter, I started riding him regularly.

“I'll miss him when he moves on. Everyone at Clarehaven will. He's a big character in the yard and it will be a sad day when he goes. You build a relationship with a horse when you are seeing them every day and finding out their characteristics. You get to know all of their likes and dislikes.”

Rab Havlin, stable jockey for Gosden, said: “If you go in there and show any fear, he'll let you know who is boss. He is the boss. He greets everyone coming in and out the yard. He's the first horse you see when you come in.

“He can throw in some special gallops. He's got such determination. His favorite gallop is the round gallop on the Limekilns. We don't get on there that often and it's probably the stiffest gallop in Newmarket. When he gets into his stride, he really thrives.

“Horses come towards him and he will scream and shout. He puffs his chest out and makes himself bigger.

“His normal thing up Warren Hill is that he will jump off like a sprinter, settle into a rhythm and then for the last half-furlong he's looking about the place and you have to keep his mind on things.”

Stradivarius ought to enjoy his ideal underfoot conditions in Thursday's Gold Cup, but Cup king Aidan O'Brien saddles something of an unknown quantity in ante-post favourite Kyprios, who is expected to give him plenty to think about.

O'Brien loves a Cup horse and is the Gold Cup's leading trainer with seven wins, four of them on the spin between 2006 and 2009 with brilliant stayer Yeats, and subsequently with Fame And Glory (2011), Leading Light (2014) and Order Of St George (2016).

He will no doubt be among the first to congratulate connections if Stradivarius can beat his youngers in a declared field of ten for the Gold Cup, which is the part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series, but he would no doubt love to win with Kyprios, who looks one of his best chances of the week.

The one-time Derby hope will be racing over six furlongs further than he has ever tried before, but he arrives at Ascot via a route O'Brien knows well, for all four of the stable's Gold Cup winners had run in one, or both, of the Cup trials at Navan and Leopardstown which Kyprios has won so well this spring.

O'Brien said: “We always thought that he could develop into a good stayer and so we had him in at Ascot a year ago in the Queen's Vase, but he went under the stalls. We thought we might get him back in the St Leger but he'd been badly bruised at Ascot and didn't get to run the rest of the year.

“He's done well this year, running twice and winning twice in two trials that we've used before for the Gold Cup. He beat his sister Search For A Song (dual Irish St Leger winner) at Navan and then won by a long way at Leopardstown, so we were very happy with both races.”

He added: “You are never sure if they will stay the Gold Cup trip until they try it but we've always thought that he would. He won't mind if it's fast ground.”

Although two of Stradivarius' Gold Cup wins have been on soft ground, connections have long felt that he ideally wanted the quick summer ground such as prevailed when beating Vazirabad for his first, and probably best, Gold Cup win. Although only fourth to Subjectivist on similar ground, he might well have been second but for his positioning on the bend.

It has already been advertised that he will take a well-earned place at stud next year, but last month's third win in the Yorkshire Cup, where Tashkhan was a good third, confirmed he is still a force to reckon with.

John Gosden, now training in partnership with son Thady, said: “You'd have to argue that he was probably in his prime at five, maybe six, and at eight you have to face facts, but he's up for it at the moment. The plan was always to try and run here and then try and run at Goodwood, but not to go deep into the autumn.

“He had some bad luck with the ground last year and there were a couple of tactical issues, but he's still up to running a huge race so long as the ground isn't soft or heavy, which it doesn't look as if it will be. It's great to have him still running so well at this level. He's won the Yorkshire Cup this year, and let's hope he goes out and runs a big one.”

Alan King has declared Trueshan, a dual winner of Ascot's QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup Cup and twice successful at Group 1 level last year, but the six-year-old's preference for soft ground is well established and his participation depends upon the forecast for continued hot dry weather being wrong.

King confirmed: “We would look very stupid if there were thunderstorms and we weren't still in, so I've just declared in case the forecast is wrong.”

Much of Princess Zoe's best form has been on soft and heavy ground, including her famous victory in Longchamp's Prix Du Cadran two years ago, but she was a five-length second on quickish ground in last year's Gold Cup and this year's Sagaro Stakes win confirmed that she is nowhere near so ground dependent as some once thought.

Richard Hannon does not expect fast ground to be an issue for last year's Derby and St Leger second Mojo Star, and he is adamant the four-year-old will not be found wanting for fitness, despite not having raced since last year's Arc.

He said: “It's a big step up in distance from a mile and six, but he got that trip really well and if he does get it he's bringing Classic form into a Gold Cup and that will stand him in very good stead.

“Mojo Star is very robust and he'll go on any ground. He's been to Kempton three times, because he'll need to be mad fit, and he couldn't be looking any better.”

Cesarewitch second Burning Victory, who was the chief beneficiary of Goshen's dramatic last-flight departure in the 2020 Triumph Hurdle, is an interesting runner for Willie Mullins, who is always to be feared in staying races at Royal Ascot.

Nigel Twiston-Davies runs Earlofthecotswolds, who has been a revelation since switching to the Flat on the all-weather, while Prix Du Cadran third Bubble Smart represents leading French trainer Mikel Delzangles.

The field is completed by Alignak, who will be having his first run since a busy spell in Meydan.

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