John Gosden has likened Stradivarius having another crack at the Gold Cup to a champion boxer getting back into the ring as he nears the end of his career.
Still an entire at the age of eight, Gosden, who trains Stradivarius alongside his son, Thady, has admitted that having not been gelded the chestnut can represent something of a challenge on a morning.
Winner of the Royal Ascot showpiece in 2018, 2019 and 2020, Stradivarius will be remembered as one of the great stayers of the modern era. And given he also won the Queen’s Vase in 2017, he is chasing a fifth win at the meeting which would surely raise the roof.
While he is perhaps not quite the force of old, he did reappear this season with a win in the Yorkshire Cup.
“It’s one thing training an eight-year-old gelding, it’s another thing training an eight-year-old full horse,” said Gosden.
“But he’s happy and well. I’m hoping the weather holds for him and we get to run on something called good ground rather than soft or heavy, which isn’t his scene at all. Going to Goodwood last year, you turn up for the first day and you don’t expect it to be heavy ground.”
When asked about the differences between training an eight-year-old gelding to an entire, Gosden said: “I think I can answer that by saying testosterone is probably the most dangerous drug in the world! They’re going to start thinking about other things aren’t they? What did Dick Hern say? Give me a stable of geldings and I’ll kill the bookmakers.
“You’d have to argue that as an eight-year-old 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.”
Since May 2018 there have only been two instances when Frankie Dettori has not been on board and while Gosden is a master at keeping his emotions in check, he has less confidence the Italian will be able to do so.
“I’m fine about it – it’s just his jockey who is out of control!” he said.
“I think the horse will tell us (when to retire). He’s still enjoying his training and everything is going smoothly and I think that’s absolutely fine, there’s no problem with that, to race on. I think the plan was not to go racing deep into the autumn.”
One issue is finding the right role at stud for a champion stayer, with several Derby winners in recent years being classed as National Hunt stallions.
“I think when we saw Crystal Ocean, winner of the Prince of Wales’s, become a dual-purpose stallion, it was a little bit of a shock,” said Gosden.
“It’s become this terrible tendency here to become a bit speed/mile orientated and anything that stays, ‘no we don’t want him, it’s not commercial’.
“I think we’ve got a bit of a terrible aversion to staying races. A very good horse has won the Derby this year and he is by Nathaniel. The problem is you get in a situation where people think ‘they go a mile and a half, we don’t want that it’s not commercial’ and you wind up a bit like America going shorter and shorter and shorter.”
The decision will ultimately rest with Stradivarius’ owner, Bjorn Nielsen.
“He has been (a good sport keeping him in training). He loves the horse. It’s not like bids were coming in – he’s a cup horse, you’re not going to have people knocking at the door now,” said Gosden.
“I think the first Gold Cup (was his best performance) – that was a real battle. That was a great one.”