Kyprios and Ryan Moore win the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup from Stradivarius and Trueshan. 26/7/2022 Pic Steve Davies, RACINGFOTOS.COM

Monday Musings: The New King of the Stayers

Listening to one racing show last week I was surprised to learn that the broadcaster talking about the Goodwood Cup had not known the race distance had once been two miles and five furlongs rather than the two miles of nowadays, writes Tony Stafford. Why would he, he probably hadn’t been born when the last marathon was staged in 1990?

Funnily enough, as they went over the winning line on Tuesday, the thought crossed my mind that if the longer distance – midway between the two and a half of the Gold Cup and the just short of two miles and threequarters of the Queen Alexandra – was still in operation, the verdict would not have been any different.

We were used in the days of Ardross and Le Moss between 1979 and 1982, when both won the Gold Cup at Ascot twice and then three Goodwood Cups between them, to small fields being the order of the day.

They used to doddle around and then the favourite would generally put in a burst two furlongs out and take the race. So far removed were they from the run-of-the-mill staying handicap performers of their time that few were ever persuaded to take them on.

Not today though. Just as at Royal Ascot and the Gold Cup, first prize here was £283k, with places starting at £107k, through £53k, £26k, £13k and £6,000 for sixth, the lavishly endowed Glorious Goodwood meeting, backed by Qatar, the money was identical all the way down. Nowadays, there’s nothing lost in brave defeats with that sort of remuneration to go with them. There are plenty of poorer prizes around.

The Gold Cup had revealed a new star, although the betting before Ascot’s showpiece left us in no doubt that Kyprios was “expected”.

Slinking away after his fourth in the Lingfield Derby Trial in May last year, Kyprios looked anything but a potential champion stayer. But the Aidan O’Brien recuperation centre has no peer and, when he came back 11 months later to win a Navan Listed race at 5/1 over 14 furlongs, the son of guess who was on his way. You guessed, Galileo, of course.

Bookmakers were alerted now, so when he went on to a four-horse Group 3 at Leopardstown three weeks later, he was a 1/10 chance and won by 14 lengths. In the Gold Cup, he won narrowly from last year’s Derby runner-up, Mojo Star, in a race where Stradivarius took most of the headlines. His defeat was not the main issue, but it was more significant for the sacking, temporarily for the Gosden stable, and permanently by owner Bjorn Neilsen, of the champ’s long-time partner Frankie Dettori.

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Mojo Star wasn’t there on Tuesday, but Stradivarius was, with a new partner in Andrea Atzeni, and also Trueshan, enabled to take his chance to repeat last year’s defeat of Stradivarius in the race by the bountiful employment of the Goodwood watering system.

On a day when there were plenty of owners and trainers grumbling at the significantly altered ground, it brought to the race the treasure of Trueshan who had been pulled out late both for the Gold Cup and Queen Alexandra after a couple of anxious and eventually frustrated weather watches by trainer Alan King and his owners.

He did get his June date though, up at Newcastle the following week when, from a mark of 120, he carried 10st8lb to an unthinkable win in the Northumberland Plate, causing the handicapper to put him up to 124.  So what a race we had in prospect and that’s without considering the other sextet who wanted to push on into the elite grouping.

Most obvious of these was Coltrane. Andrew Balding’s progressive stayer was second in the Chester Cup, won the Ascot Stakes and then a Sandown Listed (by ten lengths). Add the Group 1 winning Irish mare Princess Zoe, and Melbourne Cup bound Enemy and you have the deepest of deep races.

Sometimes an appetising prospect can fall flat, but not this time. In the home straight, with outsider Thunderous leading narrowly from Kyprios, the other three top contenders were winding up for the finale. As Thunderous dropped away leaving Kyprios in front, Trueshan loomed up on the outside, causing commentator Simon Holt to anticipate him and Hollie Doyle going straight past and win the Cup for the second time.

Then, on the inside, having extricated his mount from a brief mini-pocket, Atzeni challenged with the indomitable Stradivarius and his run proved longer lasting than Trueshan’s. But having faced both challenges, Ryan Moore, riding as well as ever this summer, asked his mount for a response and readily saw them off.

Riding rhythmically with his stick in his left hand, Moore called in Kyprios’ hidden resources and the answer was instantaneous. Kyprios was going away at the finish and although the winning margin was only a neck it was clear-cut. It was generally accepted that the early pace had been steady, but they came home to such good effect that the time was comfortably below standard.

Afterwards Moore suggested that, if there had been a stronger pace, Kyprios would have won more easily. Only four, he has years ahead of him and he could possibly run up a sequence in the Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup to match Stradivarius and Yeats, his own much-admired forerunner at Ballydoyle. Had it been at 2m5f, all three would have still been at the forefront and you have to conclude that the result would have been no different but maybe more emphatic in favour of the younger horse.

The best news was that Stradivarius, tipped for retirement leading up to Goodwood, may now go on to the Group 2 Lonsdale Stakes at York. Worth half as much as the Goodwood Cup, victory there would still be a worthwhile day out as the prospective stallion continues his farewell tour.

*

I had a nice chat with Charlie Appleby on Tuesday when he was still disappointed that his 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner Coroebus was unable to take up his attempt at ending Baaeed’s flawless record in the Sussex Stakes. With eight from eight in just over a year and a passable imitation of Frankel in terms of his career stopping off points, William Haggas’s four-year-old was the inevitable focus of attention, but Appleby did well to dig out another Classic winner of 2022 to tackle him.

Modern Games won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French,2.000 Guineas) on his comeback this year, and although twice a beaten favourite in Group 1’s in France since - when third to Vadeni in the French Derby and then a close fifth to Tenebrism at Deauville - he is a solid top-level performer.

Appleby’s sharp footwork brought a £215k second place in a race worth precisely double the Goodwood Cup. He edged out last year’s Sussex Stakes heroine, Alcohol Free, who most recently had won the July Cup at Newmarket. Baaeed, held up, breezed past them both with economy and disdain. The margin in distance was one and a half lengths; in class, considerably more.

I loved Haggas’s assessment of the performance:

“It was like riding the Tour De France on a motorbike.”

True words, and some of his fellow trainers, who day to day struggle to match his skilfully-placed and “thrown-in” handicappers, often have a similar sinking feeling.

- TS

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