Having once again found Enable an immovable object at the weekend, Aidan O’Brien can get one over great rival John Gosden by lowering the colours of Stradivarius in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup Stakes, the headline act on day one of Glorious Goodwood.
Stradivarius looked better than ever in winning the Ascot Gold Cup for a third time last month and it will obviously require a top-drawer effort to deny him a fourth successive victory in this Group 1 contest. Odds of 8-15 reflect that reality.
However, in Santiago he faces a dangerous new rival. Like Stradivarius, Santiago first emerged as a stayer of potential when winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot. But, while Stradivarius fell short in his bid for Classic glory, finishing third to Capri in the 2017 St Leger, Santiago ticked that box when winning the Irish Derby just eight days after his Royal Ascot success.
That triumph endorsed his credentials for this year’s St Leger but the fact O’Brien has opted to throw Santiago in at the deep end today when he could have taken a more conventional route to Doncaster suggests the Authorized colt has being working impressively since his Curragh success.
He’s clearly a colt going places and getting 15lbs from Stradivarius gives him a real chance today. And if he can prevail, this could be the start of a rivalry to savour.
Ballydoyle can also provide the answer in the Group 2 Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes where Battleground will be hard to beat if he rocks up in the same form as he showed when landing the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot.
A son of War Front and the first foal out of 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Found, Battleground is bred to be good and his performance in the Chesham suggests he’s just that. The one slight concern is Goodwood is quite a tricky venue and Battleground is a big, imposing unit but if he handles the track, he’s unquestionably the one to beat.
The other Group 2 on today’s card is the Qatar Lennox Stakes where the John Quinn-trained Safe Voyage, victorious at Epsom last time out, can get the better of the hat-trick-seeking Space Blues.
The Unibet You’re On Handicap kicks off the ITV/Virgin Media One action and Roger Varian’s Fifth Position, third at York last time out, has solid each-way prospects if first-time blinkers help eke out a little improvement. The Qatar Handicap looks similarly tricky but the Tony Carroll-trained Recon Mission shouldn’t be far away.
1.45: Fifth Position
2.15: Battleground (nap)
2.45: Safe Voyage
3.15: Santiago (nb)
3.45: Recon Mission