Stradivarius Lines Up to Defend Goodwood Cup Title

Stradivarius | Racing Post

Now that Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) has managed to establish unquestionable dominance over the older stayers, the popular chestnut has a feat of magnitude to pull off on Tuesday if he is to secure a record fourth renewal of the G1 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup. That involves surrendering a 15-pound weight-for-age advantage to a G1 Irish Derby winner in Santiago (Ire) (Authorized {Ire}), who like Bjorn Nielsen's star did three years ago comes here looking to exploit that anomaly. Weeks before Stradivarius upstaged Big Orange (GB) (Duke of Marmalade {Ire}) in the 2017 edition, he had garnered the G2 Queen's Vase and there is a symmetry in the fact that Santiago also captured that Royal Ascot contest en route to the June 27 Curragh Classic. With the long-established weight-for-age scale still generally unchallenged as an accurate measurement of relative maturity, this race will serve as one of the more thorough examinations of its logic and continued relevance in recent times.

Due to the lack of commercial value of these emotive staying races, it is rare that a Derby winner or a 3-year-old with significant class even turns up so the analysis of the effect of weight-for-age is limited. There are early indications that Santiago is set to go down the staying route permanently for a Ballydoyle stable already replete with leading middle-distance 3-year-olds and with the speed to win a mile-and-a-half Classic he is the best of his age to tackle this for a long time. Such a sizeable weight pull is almost debilitating, but there is an argument that Stradivarius still has his limitations unexposed and he is a true great based on his 10-length June 18 G1 Gold Cup romp.

John Gosden is well aware of the stiffness of the task at hand and said, “I think he has probably got one of the biggest challenges of his career. If it was run on Aug. 1 he would be giving Santiago 13 pounds, but because it is run at the end of July he is giving 15 pounds to a horse that won stylishly in the Queen's Vase and went and won an Irish Derby. That is a big ask for Stradivarius–to give 15lb over two miles. Santiago looked pretty quick on his feet to me around Ascot and I think he will handle the track. We know our fellow handles it. We got 13 pounds from Big Orange when Stradivarius won his first Goodwood Cup, so we benefited that year but now the boot is on the other foot. That two pounds could make a difference over two miles if it is a tight finish, I will tell you.”

Aidan O'Brien has had this race in mind for Santiago since his Curragh success and he commented, “We always thought he might be a Cup horse, so we were very gentle with him last year. We thought the race in Ascot would suit him well. You have to have class to win an Irish Derby, but we always felt two miles would be within his grasp this year. We've had to be a bit gentle with him since the Curragh, but everything has gone very well. We just thought this would be a lovely race for him between the Irish Derby and the St Leger. Hopefully we'll learn a lot about him and the horse will learn a lot as well.”

Preceding the Goodwood Cup is the G2 Qatar Lennox S., in which 'TDN Rising Star' Space Blues (Ire) headlines a three-strong Dubawi (Ire) challenge from the Charlie Appleby stable. Having beaten his re-opposing stablemate D'bai (Ire) in the G3 Prix de la Porte Maillot at ParisLongchamp June 25, last year's G1 Prix Jean Prat runner-up and G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest third is perfectly poised for this test. D'bai has subsequently won a competitive Haydock conditions race over this seven-furlong trip July 17, while the G2 Hungerford S. and G2 Al Fahidi Fort winner Glorious Journey (GB) makes up a formidable trio for Godolphin.

“Space Blues heads to Goodwood following back-to-back wins and goes there in good shape. We feel that conditions will suit, together with the style of racing at Goodwood,” Appleby said. “Glorious Journey put up solid performances in Dubai and Saudi Arabia. He ran a decent enough race at Goodwood a couple of years ago and conditions should suit him as well. He has a penalty to defy, but this has always been his target. D'bai won at Haydock last time out and heads into this race in good order, although he has to turn around the form with Space Blues from their Longchamp run. He wasn't beaten far in this race in 2018 and should enjoy the hustle and bustle of it again. Space Blues is the pick of the three on all evidence, but the other two aren't without chances either.”

Away from the usual suspects, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's 'TDN Rising Star' Pierre Lapin (Ire) (Cappella Sansevero {GB}) is worth another chance to prove his comeback flop when last in Royal Ascot's G1 Commonwealth Cup June 19. Last year's G2 Mill Reef S. winner is the sole 3-year-old in the line-up and will provide a gauge as to their relative merit in this niche division.

Ballydoyle supply the favourite for the G2 Veuve Clicquot Vintage S. in their precious commodity Battleground (War Front), the son of Found (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) who captured the Listed Chesham S.  at Royal Ascot June 18. Interestingly, he is still the only winner in Britain from this stable in 2020 despite running the likes of More Beautiful (War Front), Admiral Nelson (GB) (Kingman {GB}) and Hudson River (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). “He's a big, powerful horse with a lovely mind,” Aidan O'Brien commented. “He's very uncomplicated and mentally very easy–he hasn't shown any issues yet, either mentally or physically. This will be another step in his life. Goodwood is obviously an unusual track, so hopefully he'll cope with it and if he doesn't, hopefully he'll learn from it. Found was an unbelievable mare–so tough it was incredible. She was one filly who would lay her whole soul out for you every day and always the thing with her was not to let her do too much.”

Heading the opposition to Battleground is Russell Jones's Devious Company (Ire) (Fast Company {Ire}), who will be providing evidence as to the merit of his July 11 G2 Superlative S. conqueror Master of the Seas (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}). Beaten three lengths by Godolphin's promising juvenile in that Newmarket staging post also over this seven-furlong trip, he beat all else including Jaber Abdullah's sixth-placed King Zain (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) and trainer Tom Dascombe is hoping he can also make his mark here.

“He beat a lot of other good horses that day and I think Goodwood should be fine for him,” he said. “He has a bit of experience now, having had the three runs. I wouldn't want to see too much rain, but I'm pretty confident he'd handle most ground. On distances, weights and measures I think we might have the beating of the favourite on form, but obviously Aidan O'Brien's horses do tend to improve a lot. I think we go there with a good, solid chance and if the O'Brien horse is better than us then he'll beat us–it's as simple as that.”

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