Ringside At Royal Ascot On Thursday


Stradivarius bids for his fourth G1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday | PA Media


If Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) could talk, and by now it's almost as if he can, he would probably sound like Ali as he approaches his own version of the legendary “Rumble In the Jungle” at an Ascot with a suitably high reading on the thermometor. “I'm gonna dance!” he would shout. “There's nothing to be scared of.” Whether he's been busy handcuffing lightning or chopping down trees ahead of his great hour fighting to regain his title in Thursday's G1 Gold Cup only connections know, but his preparation has apparently been carefully masterminded to deal with the challenge. And it is a challenge, of every nerve and sinew in his perfectly biomechanically-engineered body, a body that has withstood over 60 miles of racing and thousands of miles of training gallops. If that isn't remarkable enough, his mental fortitude is. He has an unflinching desire to carry the fight into his veteran stage and gain that oh-so-hard-to-get fourth Gold Cup. There is nothing like the Royal meeting's monument, so revered in past times and so needlessly neglected for a spell in the later part of the last century. It is back where it belongs as the showcase of the week, thanks largely to a truly great racing character like Stradivarius.


Gosden's Corner

John Gosden was also keen to use a boxing analogy as he held court to the press in the build-up. “He's an old pro now, he goes in the ring, does what he has to do and comes home,” he said. “His regime [is] a little bit mixed up, but don't go trying to make anything tougher or harder for him–that does not go down very well at all. He was probably in his prime at five maybe into six, but at eight you have to face the fact that it's like a boxer getting back in the ring too late in his career sometimes. He's up for it and the plan was always to try to run at Ascot and Goodwood and we're sticking to the plan as long as he's with us and he is at the moment.”


The Contender

If 2021 was Stradivarius's version of rope-a-dope, Thursday could see him throw those combinations that have set him apart from the 210 opponents he has mastered down the years. Every great bout needs a significant opponent and with Trueshan (Fr) (Planteur {Ire}) almost certainly out of the equation, that is Kyprios (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). Half the Nielsen runner's age and as vibrant and menacing as it gets, he hails from a Ballydoyle stable that specialises in fostering the power of its heavyweights. He is the Foreman or Frazier, intent on destruction from the front coming off a 14-length win in Leopardstown's G3 Saval Beg Levmoss S. May 13. Surging to the fore in Navan's Listed Vintage Crop S. Apr. 23, the chestnut who sports the Moyglare silks has one problem as he enters Stradivarius's back garden. His three visits to England have resulted in no-shows in the 2020 G3 Zetland S. and Listed Lingfield Derby Trial last May and a panic in the stalls before this meeting's G2 Queen's Vase which injured him. As Foreman was lost in Zaire, will it be the case that Kyprios's strength is diminished by unfamiliar terrain?


In Battaash's Shadow

Kicking off the action is the G2 Norfolk S., where Ballydoyle are again prominent with the super-charged The Antarctic (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}). His full-brother Battaash (Ire), so dominant in deepest Sussex and virtually unbeatable elsewhere, took four goes to win here and was successful only once in five appearances at Royal Ascot. Aidan O'Brien has talked about keeping a lid on the grey ahead of this examination and while he has hardly been electric at Tipperary and Naas, it may be that he is about to cut loose.


Precedent Set For Walbank

Tuesday saw Bradsell (GB) (Tasleet {GB}) convert the currency gained from a wide-margin prep win at York into success in the prestigious G2 Coventry S. and Amo Racing and Omnihorse Racing's fellow 'TDN Rising Star' Star Walbank (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) bids to do the same in the Norfolk after scoring by seven lengths on the Knavesmire May 22. The Coventry was robbed of the high-class Noble Style (GB) (Kingman {GB}), who had beaten Walbank over this course and distance May 7, but Royal Scotsman (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}) did the form a great service having been fourth on that occasion behind the talented duo and another of this race's protagonists in Redemption Time (GB) (Harry Angel {Ire}). The latter represents Dalham Hall Stud's first-season sire, while Coolmore's Sioux Nation has both Sheikh Abdullah Almalek Alsabah's Apr. 27 Royal Ascot Two-Year-Old Trial Conditions S. winner Bakeel (GB) and Brian Goodyear's six-length Apr. 23 Doncaster maiden scorer Brave Nation (Ire) to fly his flag.


Within Reach

As far as the Royalists are concerned, the best is saved for second last on Thursday with The Queen's Reach For the Moon (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) set to go off very short in the penultimate G3 Hampton Court S. Frankie's Royal Ascot has been one to forget so far and if Stradivarius can turn things around at 4:20p he will be perfectly teed up for this grand climax. Off the board on Wednesday, Jane Chapple-Hyam looks to provide the sternest opposition with Claymore (Fr) (New Bay {GB}), whose second in the G3 Craven S. Apr. 13 was followed by a nightmare trip in the G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains at ParisLongchamp May 15, where the combination of a wide draw and over-racing put paid to any chance.

“I'm not afraid to wreck the Queen's Platinum Jubilee–it will be 'off with her head' if I do,” she joked. “It is an interesting race, as clearly the Queen's horse is the favourite and Frankie Dettori and John Gosden have been very bold about that. I think that is their banker and many people's banker of the week. When Claymore was second in the Craven, the third horse Hoo Ya Mal (GB) (Territories {Ire}) was subsequently second in the [G1] Derby and people are forgetting that. I think he has got a bit of a squeak.”


The Road Most Taken

The G2 Ribblesdale S. unfortunately has no Emily Upjohn (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}), but in Sunderland Holding's Sea Silk Road (GB) it has another daughter of the Gilltown Stud giant who could yet make waves. There is little in the form of her narrow success in Goodwood's May 20 Listed Height of Fashion S. that suggests she is worthy of her cramped odds, but of course we are talking about a lightly-raced William Haggas-trained filly and the trend of late has been for punters to follow blind. Zhang Yuesheng's Magical Lagoon (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) has an experience edge and Jessie Harrington has been waiting patiently since her second in Navan's Listed Salsabil S. over a mile and a quarter on Apr. 23.


Songs Stays At Home

As expected, Moyglare Stud's brilliant G1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Homeless Songs (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) was not confirmed  for Friday's G1 Coronation S. with the hot and dry forecast remaining in place until at least Saturday. Cheveley Park Stud's Inspiral (GB) (Frankel {GB}) will face 11 rivals, including the G1 1000 Guineas heroine Cachet (Ire) (Aclaim {Ire}).

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