Stradivarius on the hunt for historic Gold Cup title

The chance to become a part of Gold Cup history beckons for Stradivarius as he looks to achieve his fifth successive victory at Royal Ascot.

The three-year-old won the Queen's Vase back in 2017 - and that Group Two was only a glimpse of his future success.

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. His only defeat to Kew Gardens in the same race a year later prevented him from going two seasons unbeaten.

Last year he took a trip with the aim of competing in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Although that did not come off, he still displayed his excellence on his return in the Sagaro Stakes.

"He seems to love his training still, he still seems to love his racing," said John Gosden.

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"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 'OK, 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 joined Yeats as the only other horse to have won four Gold Cups, and Gosden believes his first was the toughest test 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!"

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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, with no success.

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 is a 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."

Alan King's Trueshan had Stradivarius a long way behind him when winning on Champions Day - but conditions were testing then, and the Barbury Castle trainer has stated plenty of rain will need to fall for him to run.

King said: "He's been declared, but we are very reliant on thunderstorms hitting Ascot. He's in great nick and I couldn't be happier with him, but if it doesn't rain he doesn't run. It will have to go to good, or good to soft."

Aidan O'Brien, who trained Yeats, threw a curve ball last week when supplementing last year's surprise Derby winner Serpentine.

Winless since his incredible Epsom display, in which he made every yard of the running, he had an unusual prep for a two-and-a-half-mile marathon by running in the Tattersalls Gold Cup over an extended 10 furlongs.

"Obviously we won't know if he stays the trip until he runs over it, but we always thought he'd stay further than a mile and a half," said O'Brien.

"He seems to be in good form at home, he's had a run this season and we're hoping he'll run well."

The Ballydoyle handler also runs Santiago, who won the Queen's Vase at the meeting last year before going on to glory in the Irish Derby.

"Santiago is in good form and this has always been the plan for him. He's had his two runs already this season and we've been happy with him since his last run at York," said O'Brien.

Andrew Balding's Yorkshire Cup winner Spanish Mission is another with a live chance.

"I'm really pleased with Spanish Mission. I thought it was a really good effort at York, but he faces some mighty opponents here in the likes of Stradivarius, Subjectivist, and Santiago, not to mention Serpentine, who I wasn't expecting," said Balding.

"It's a really intriguing race, as a Gold Cup should be, but Spanish Mission is in great form. It's another two furlongs further than the Doncaster Cup, which he won last year, but I'd be hopeful that he'll stay."

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