Frankie Dettori paid tribute to the longevity of Stradivarius ahead of his bid to win a second Doncaster Cup – four years after he finished third in the St Leger on Town Moor.
John and Thady Gosden’s chestnut won on his only other visit to South Yorkshire in this corresponding event two years ago, which was part of an incredible 10-race winning streak.
While he has perhaps not quite been at his brilliant best this year, he did return to winning ways last time out in a tremendous tussle with Spanish Mission at York. And Dettori has formed a close bond with the seven-year-old.
“I think he only does what needs to be done these days. He’s been great for the sport, I love him dearly,” said the Italian.
“He got a tremendous reception at York. He’ll probably get one at Doncaster. He’s not going to be here forever, so let’s enjoy him.
“He’s done so much for the sport. Let’s hope he does the business.
“As for tactics, I usually improvise with him. With him we have to play it by ear. Luckily, he knows where the winning post is.
“He’s been fabulous for the sport, and the reception I got at York was such a thrill. People love him, it’s great.”
The task facing Stradivarius appeared to become significantly easier when, as widely anticipated, old rival Trueshan was declared a non-runner on Friday morning because of the good to firm ground – which has not eased, despite 5mm of rain the previous evening.
Thady Gosden said: “Stradivarius is in great form at home and still loving every second of it.
“It was an unbelievable day at York, to have a fight like that. He’s been there so many times, he knows where the winning post is!
“He goes there in good form on Friday.
“He might be a bit more sensible now (than he used to be pre-race).
“But he’s been good recently. At home as well, he’s his usual self, a very flamboyant horse, he likes to let you know he’s there – and is just generally full of love and enjoyment for the game.”
With Subjectivist sidelined by injury, and Alan King’s Trueshan a late absentee, David Simcock’s improver Rodrigo Diaz has emerged as perhaps the main danger to Stradivarius.
Simcock said: “Staying was always going to be his game.
“He’s a horse who has taken a lot of time to develop and is now getting better and better with racing. The track suits him, and the trip should really suit him too. He also enjoys fast ground.
“There’s plenty between Rodrigo Diaz and Stradivarius at the weights still. But the fact that he ran so well at Newbury over a trip we felt was inadequate for him gives us hope, because we know there’s going to be improvement when he steps up in trip.
“Half of him has been sold to Australian Bloodstock, and we still have the Melbourne Cup in the back of our minds. Although it’s far from straightforward logistically, this year could be as good as any to be involved so far as the depth of the race goes. A decision will be made after Doncaster.”
With Subjectivist out of action, Mark Johnston relies on Nayef Road – who has been below form recently.
Johnston said: “Nayef Road might not have been running to his absolute best this year, but he’s not a long way short of it and he deserves to win one of these.”
Sir Mark Prescott is following a familiar route with Kirsten Rausing’s three-year-old Alerta Roja.
“Alerta Roja is wonderfully tough and she’s already exceeded what we thought was possible for her,” said Prescott.
“On the figures she doesn’t have a chance, but we did win it with Alleluia, who was very similar and was also a three-year-old filly.
“Alleluia won five, and this one, who is from the same family, has won three and been Listed placed. While ostensibly she’s got no chance, she seems in good form and she gets a lot of weight. Nothing is impossible with this family.”