Stradivarius Poised For Historic Feat


Stradivarius | Scoop Dyga

   It's Thursday at Royal Ascot, which can only mean that it's time for Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) with the Gosden titan now bidding for a record-equalling fourth renewal of the G1 Gold Cup. As Yeats (Ire) did before him, Bjorn Nielsen's stayer supreme just keeps coming back to deal with the latest set of opponents looking to stretch him. In his inaugural triumph in 2018, it was the French doyen Vazirabad (Fr) (Manduro {Ger}) who felt his breeze as Frankie's favourite winning post loomed, while a year later it was Dee Ex Bee (GB) (Farhh {GB}) who tasted the same medicine. Last season, in front of the vacant stands, the chestnut had no meaningful competition and duly opened up to put on a rare show with a 10-length success despite the soft ground. Never at his best when there is cut underfoot, he glided through the “summer soft” as Gosden Sr termed it at the Royal meeting but when it got testing in the autumn it found him out and he went into winter quarters having beaten only one of his 13 rivals in the G2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup. If the expected thunderstorm misses or fails to deliver the quantities of rain forecast and it stays good-to-firm, as it was when he won the G3 Sagaro S. on his return here Apr. 28, there may be little hope for the rest so it is in the lap of the gods now.

“He worked on the July Course last week and I was very happy with him,” John Gosden said. “Touch wood, we're ready to go again. He has been remarkable. His win in the Sagaro was tidy, pleasant, and Frankie didn't ask him too much so let's hope he's ready for the big one again. 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.”

When it was deep ground on Champions Day, it was Trueshan (Fr) (Planteur {Ire}) who excelled with a 7 1/2-length romp in the Long Distance Cup as Stradivarius floundered. While that was a marked upgrade on his previous form, the Alan King-trained 5-year-old had previously hinted that he was at least not out of place in that line-up. Proving it was no fluke when 3/4-of-a-length second to Japan (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) attempting to give that rival five pounds in the G3 Ormonde S. over an extended 13 furlongs at Chester May 6, he will not run if the rain fails to arrive in sufficient quantities to ease the current quick conditions. “I was extremely happy at Chester–it was a great performance giving weight to a Group 1 winner,” jockey Hollie Doyle said. “He's come out of that very well apparently and a bit of ease in the ground would be lovely.” Alan King added, “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.”

Mark Johnston likes to have a go at the reigning champion and tries again with the G1 Prix Royal-Oak hero Subjectivist (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}), who came back this year just as strong when winning the G2 Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan Mar. 27. Back in fifth on that occasion was Team Valor Llc and Gary Barber's Spanish Mission (Noble Mission {GB}), who has since beaten Santiago (Ire) (Authorized {Ire}) in the G2 Yorkshire Cup over 14 furlongs May 14. “He did have an injury in that Dubai race,” Johnston said. “It's taken him a little while to come back from that and as a result we haven't had any race in between. 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.”

Santiago is one of a trio from Ballydoyle and is reunited with Seamie Heffernan for the first time since winning last year's G1 Irish Derby. Relishing the soft ground when successful in the G2 Queen's Vase at this meeting 12 months ago, he will be interesting going over this marathon trip along with his G1 Epsom Derby-winning stablemate Serpentine (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). Supplemented last week, the latter is a rare blue riband winner tackling this prestige event and adds another dimension. “Obviously we won't know if Serpentine stays the trip until he runs over it, but we always thought he'd stay further than a mile and a half,” Aidan O'Brien said. “He seems to be in good form at home, he's had a run this season and we're hoping he'll run well. 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.”

Andrew Balding said of 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. 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.”

Ward Looks To Get Off The Mark

The day's action starts with the five-furlong G2 Norfolk S. for the 2-year-olds, where Wesley Ward and John Velazquez combine with the May 9 Belmont Park maiden special weight winner Lucci (Not This Time) who races for Andrew Farm, Forthepeople Racing Stable and Windmill Manor. Velazquez is hoping he will be able to cope with the ground if the forecast rain arrives. “He won very nicely on the grass in New York. It seems like we're probably going to get a little bit of rain tomorrow and hopefully he can handle that,” he said. Ward, who also saddles the Apr. 14 Keeneland maiden special weight winner Nakatomi (Firing Line) who races in the Qatar Racing silks, is still looking for his first winner of the week and said of his duo, “At home, we have been working Lucci and Nakatomi together. Nakatomi was coming out on top, but then they had a workout in Newmarket on the Limekilns and Lucci turned the tables. He just bounced straight through to the front and would not give up the lead.”

If it does go soft, that will count against Ballydoyle's Cadamosto (Ire) (No Nay Never) who has been withdrawn several times both before and after his impressive win over this trip on Dundalk's Polytrack Apr. 10. “This horse has missed a lot of potential engagements since winning on his debut at Dundalk in April and I really hope that the rain that is forecast from Wednesday night all through Thursday is not as bad as some are suggesting,” Ryan Moore said. “This is a colt we like and he really impressed me when beating a fair sort in Silver Surfer at Dundalk. He has a lot of class and speed and I expect him to go well.” Bond Thoroughbred's Project Dante (GB) (Showcasing {GB}) proved on his winning debut at York May 12 that he handles good-to-soft and his defeat of the re-opposing Korker (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}) looks better now that the runner-up has won at Carlisle May 28.

Stars On The Rise

In the G2 Ribblesdale S., Juddmonte's 'TDN Rising Star' Noon Star (Galileo {Ire}) bids to go one better than her half-sister Mori (GB) who went under by a neck to Coronet (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) in this four years ago. At the time of her 3 3/4-length second to Snowfall (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) in the G3 Musidora S. over an extended 10 furlongs at York May 12, there was an air of disappointment but subsequent events have since proven that to be highly respectable. In front of the subsequent G1 Epsom Oaks runner-up Mystery Angel (Ire) (Kodi Bear {Ire}) there, the daughter of Midday (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) comes into this fresh after a late setback ruled her out of the Epsom Classic.

Aidan O'Brien saddles Divinely (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who ran third in the Oaks and who as a daughter of Red Evie (Ire) (Intikhab) has limitless potential. Ryan Moore said of her, “Aidan was expecting an improved performance from her at Epsom and she duly delivered it, again not having the best of passages but sticking on really well to be third. I know she was beaten a long way and she probably has something to find with the likes of Noon Star, a filly I have a lot of time for, but any rain won't bother her and she has a fair shot at this.” The Gosden stable has won three of the last four renewals and seems best-represented by Bjorn Nielsen's Gloria Mundi (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) who was a neck second to Shadwell's Eshaada (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}) in Newbury's Listed Haras de Bouquetot Fillies' Trial S. over 10 furlongs May 15.

William Haggas will be hoping the rain fails to materialise for another Shadwell jewel in Mohaafeth (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), who was forced to miss the G1 Epsom Derby when the storms hit Surrey and who heads the cast for the 10-furlong G3 Hampton Court S. Provided the ground stays at least good, his five-length defeat of the re-opposing Secret Protector (War Front) in the May 1 Listed Newmarket S. over this trip should be enough to see the famed silks back in the winner's enclosure at this meeting. William Haggas is again looking at his best plans being waylaid by the changeable weather and said, “He looks absolutely fantastic, he's ready to go. He obviously doesn't want much rain but he'll run, I promised Sheikha Hissa he'd run at Ascot regardless. It's just the way it is, it's typical. Everything has been good with him, he's in great form and he really is a lovely horse, we just won't see him at his best on soft ground but that's the way it is. He'll still run a good race, he's very well.”

If Mohaafeth underperforms, the answer could be One Ruler who did run in the Derby won by his stablemate Adayar (Ire) (Frankel {GB}). Godolphin's G3 Autumn S. winner and G1 Futurity Trophy runner-up is back quickly after Epsom, in which he was a well-beaten sixth having looked unhappy on the track. Also sixth in the G1 2000 Guineas at Newmarket May 1, he will be at home if it rains and Charlie Appleby has now won the G2 Dante S. and G2 Queen's Vase alongside the Derby. “One Ruler has come out of the Derby in good shape and will appreciate the drop back to a mile and a quarter, together with any ease in the going,” he said. “We are confident that he can be very competitive under a [four-pound] penalty.” Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's Movin Time (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) comes here with abundant potential, having beaten Wednesday's G2 Queen's Vase winner Kemari (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) by four lengths in a 10-furlong Newmarket maiden May 13 and Roger Varian has a useful bunch of 3-year-old colts to measure him against.

Varian also supplies a live contender for the Britannia H. over a mile in Amo Racing's Raadobarg (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}), who is looking for a fourth consecutive win, while Aidan O'Brien has opted to run the one-time Derby contender Sir Lamorak (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) under top weight in the 12-furlong King George V H. The latter looks a particularly strong renewal, but Ballydoyle ran Constantinople (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) to be second two years ago giving weight away to all rivals. He went on to place in the G2 Great Voltigeur and G3 Gordon S. and it is easy to imagine Sir Lamorak treading the same path. “He also doesn't want much rain, but I think he has a big run in him if the ground remains decent,” Ryan Moore said. “He may be 15 pounds higher than when winning for me at Leopardstown back in April, but you had to be very impressed by what he did that day and I think he is a good colt and hopefully one better than his current mark of 100.”

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