History beckons for Stradivarius if he is able to win a fourth Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday.
He would join Yeats, who landed the meeting’s most prestigious race for four successive years between 2006 and 2009, as just the second horse to achieve the feat.
While John and Thady Gosden’s chestnut is the same age as Yeats was when he won his final Gold Cup at eight, Stradivarius also landed the Queen’s Vase as a three-year-old so he is chasing a fifth Royal Ascot success, one shy of Brown Jack with six.
His Ascot record stands up to close scrutiny with six of his 20 wins coming on the famous Heath, and he proved he was still well up to this level when winning the Yorkshire Cup on his reappearance.
However, John Gosden readily admits training an eight-year-old full horse does pose a few challenges.
“He runs how he runs – he’s reached the stage where he knows how to race and he doesn’t want to be left a massive amount to do but on the other hand if you get there too early, that’s not a good idea either,” said Gosden.
“He’s an old pro now, he goes in the ring, does what he has to do and comes home. He had bad luck with the ground last year. He’s still up to running a huge race in the Gold Cup, as long as the ground isn’t soft or heavy.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, you have to keep them interested, but at the same time don’t go rubbing their nose in it because they will quickly tell you what to do with it.
“(His regime now is) a little bit mixed up, but don’t go trying to make anything tougher or harder for him – that does not go down very well at all. 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.
“He’s up for it and the plan was always to try to run at Ascot and Goodwood and we’re sticking to the plan as long as he’s with us and he is at the moment.”
Standing in his way is Kyprios, trained, just like Yeats, by Aidan O’Brien.
Unbeaten in four races in Ireland, he was sixth in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket at two, fourth in the Lingfield Derby Trial and became upset in the stalls ahead of the Queen’s Vase 12 months ago, so his previous three visits to Britain have not gone well.
“We always thought he could develop into a good stayer and so we had him in at Ascot a year ago in the Queen’s Vase, but he went under the stalls,” said O’Brien.
“We thought we might get him back in the St Leger but he’d been badly bruised at Ascot and didn’t get to run the rest of the year.
“He’s done well this year, running twice and winning twice in two trials that we’ve used before for the Gold Cup. He beat his sister Search For A Song (dual Irish St Leger winner) at Navan and then won by a long way at Leopardstown, so we were very happy with both races.
“You are never sure if they will stay the Gold Cup trip until they try it but we’ve always thought that he would. He won’t mind if it’s fast ground.”
Before the recent dry spell the favourite for the race had been Alan King’s multiple Group One winner Trueshan.
However, the mud-lover, who was denied the opportunity to run last year by quick ground, looks sure to miss out once again.
Despite looking the best stayer in training when winning at Goodwood, in France and on Champions Day last year, King is determined not to run him on ground which does not suit.
“We would look very stupid if there were thunderstorms and we weren’t still in, so I’ve just declared in case the forecast is wrong,” he said.
One who brings top form to the table and is unexposed in cup races is Richard Hannon’s Mojo Star.
While he disappointed in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, he did finish runner-up in the Derby and St Leger last year and he heads for another race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
Hannon said: “It’s a big step up in distance from a mile and six, but he got that trip really well and if he does get it, he’s bringing Classic form into a Gold Cup and that will stand him in very good stead.
“Mojo Star is very robust and he’ll go on any ground. He’s been to Kempton three times, because he’ll need to be mad fit, and he couldn’t be looking any better.”
Last year’s runner-up Princess Zoe, Brian Ellison’s Tashkhan who was second to Trueshan on Champions Day and Willie Mullins’ 2020 Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory are also in the field.