History beckons for Stradivarius as he chases not only a fourth Gold Cup at Royal Ascot but a fifth successive victory at Flat racing’s showpiece meeting.
As a three-year-old the chestnut won the Queen’s Vase back in 2017 – and that Group Two only hinted at the success-laden career that lay in wait for him.
He immediately took on his elders in the Goodwood Cup, making use of the weight allowance and while a Classic success in the St Leger eluded him by half a length, his four-year-old career was a perfect one.
A Yorkshire Cup, a first Gold Cup, another Goodwood win and a Lonsdale Cup preceded a victory on Champions Day and only a nose defeat to Kew Gardens in the corresponding race 12 months later prevented him from going two seasons unbeaten.
Last year connections experimented with his trip with the intention of running in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and while that did not come off, he showed he was as good as ever on his return in the Sagaro Stakes.
“He seems to love his training still, he still seems to love his racing,” said John Gosden.
“He can be very naughtily behaved beforehand and think he’s in the covering shed – not at the racecourse – but when it comes to the race and he gets down to the start, he can look at a mare and think ‘okay, I’ve a job to do’.
“He worked on the July Course last week and I was very happy with him. Touch wood, we’re ready to go again.”
Stradivarius would join Yeats as the only other horse to have won four Gold Cups, and Gosden believes his first was his stiffest task when beating Vazirabad, Torcedor and Order Of St George.
“He has been remarkable. He has this exciting turn of foot,” said Gosden.
“I think the toughest race of his life was his first Gold Cup against the great French stayer (Vazirabad), but overall I think his record stands up.
“His win in the Sagaro was tidy, pleasant, he (Frankie Dettori) didn’t ask him too much so let’s hope he’s ready for the big one again.
“I’d like to get through Thursday before deciding what next. I know where he (owner Bjorn Nielsen) would like to run, but there’s nothing wrong with five Goodwood Cups is there!” He did have one word of caution, however – the weather.
He said: “I fear one thing for Stradivarius – thunderstorms – because he has this wonderful turn of foot after two and a half miles but the wet ground, soft ground, blunts it, so we’ll see how we go.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the new boy on the block, Subjectivist, and a lot of respect for Alan King’s horse (Trueshan), although he would prefer a downpour. There’s no doubt Subjectivist adds a lot of spice to the race.”
Subjectivist is certainly the new kid on the staying block. His trainer Mark Johnston has thrown the likes of Dee Ex Bee, Nayef Road and other good stayers at Stradivarius in recent years, all to no avail.
However, Johnston believes the four-year-old is his best chance chance of downing Gosden’s stayer given the way he won the Prix Royal-Oak in France and the Dubai Gold Cup last time out.
“He did have an injury in that Dubai race. It’s taken him a little while to come back from that and as a result we haven’t had any race in between,” said Johnston, who revealed his colt also had a fall at home recently but escaped injury.
“I think this is the best horse I’ve gone to war with Stradivarius with. We know what a tall order that is – we’ve finished second to him so many times before.
“I won’t be looking at tactics to beat Stradivarius, we’ve just got to hope that we’ve got the best horse on the day.” Nayef Road is back for more, in a race which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
“Nayef Road is going to Ascot on the back of two disappointing performances, but while his second in the Gold Cup last year was with cut in the ground, we had previously always thought he was better on fast ground,” said Johnston.
“We are hopeful that on better ground we’ll see him back to his best, although there’s obviously some rain forecast on Thursday so we have to be prepared for that.”