Subjectivist provided Mark Johnston with a fourth Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, as Stradivarius – chasing a fourth win of his own – met trouble in running and could only finish fourth.
Joe Fanning sat second throughout as Amhran Na Bhfiann set steady fractions at the head of affairs, while Frankie Dettori on Stradivarius was happy to let the race unfold in front of him.
Fanning kicked clear with over two furlongs to run, just before the field turned into the straight, and as the runners bunched up Dettori found a wall of horses blocking his path on the favourite.
Subjectivist – so impressive in the Dubai Gold Cup last time out and a Group One winner in France before that – took three lengths out of the field and was never likely to be found out for a lack of stamina.
As he kicked clear Amhran Na Bhfiann was weakening rapidly – right into Dettori’s path – and all of a sudden Stradivarius was up against it.
Tony Mullins’ mare Princess Zoe came out of the pack to chase Subjectivist and although Dettori tried valiantly to weave his way through, he found himself with too much to do.
Subjectivist (13-2) had five lengths to spare over Princess Zoe, with Spanish Mission a further half-length back in third, just ahead of the 5-6 market leader.
Johnston had won the race previously with Double Trigger in 1995 and Royal Rebel in 2001 and 2002, and had been second in numerous big races to Stradivarius with Dee Ex Bee and Nayef Road.
The Middleham handler said: “He was on the up last winter, he won the Group One in France on heavy ground which made people think he wanted heavy ground.
“When he went to Dubai and won on fast ground, he put up the performance of his life, so I knew coming here – but I couldn’t be confident – that if he could reproduce that he would take an awful lot of beating.
“Someone asked me earlier if he would lead, but we never tell the jockeys what to do, we always go a pace to suit our horse and when he’s sitting second like today, in a nice rhythm, I thought it was perfect.
“With half a mile to go we were in unknown territory, but Joe hadn’t asked for an effort and we knew from Dubai how he can finish off.”
He added: “The preparation wasn’t smooth, 45 minutes after his race in Dubai he was stood in a stable on one leg and we thought it was really serious and then last week he fell over in Middleham, scraping his knees and the only positive I could take was that Attraction did the same before winning the Queen Mary!
“I think we’ll look at the Goodwood Cup. We’ll have an eye on the winter in Dubai and Saudi given the money on offer. The number one thing, I think, will be to work back from this next year.”
Weighing-room veteran Fanning was afforded a tremendous reception by racegoers and his fellow riders on his return to the winner’s enclosure.
He said: “He’s a very straightforward horse, very uncomplicated, and he did all the hard work.
“I just let horses find their own comfort zone. He can be a little keen, but with every race he’s getting more relaxed. I always say to Mark it’s better off letting him jump and find his own rhythm.
“It was a steady pace, but he relaxed which helped. Six (furlongs) out I started to push a little and I was never going to take him back.
“It was nice to see the lads come out of the weighing room to welcome me in, it’s nice to come here and win a big race.
“Having the crowd back is great.”
Of the immediate Stradivarius reaction, John Gosden said: “It didn’t go to plan.
“I thought the winner was most impressive, but we were a long way back, had the filly beside us and couldn’t get out.
“We were just caught too far back. Frankie couldn’t get out when he wanted to. You need these races to go right, it didn’t exactly go to plan in running, but full marks to the winner, I thought he was mightily impressive.”
Dettori said: “I ran into a pocket turning for home. When you get stopped in a two-and-half-mile race, you never get going again. The winner’s a good winner, but I’d love to have had another shot at it.”
Princess Zoe ran a huge race on ground that would have been quick enough for her, leaving Mullins rightly proud of her effort.
He said: “Everything will revolve around the Prix du Cadran, with whatever presents itself beforehand.
“I think we’ve been beaten by a great champion, and she’s run the race of her life.
“The owners have expressed a view to consider the Cheltenham Festival. She’s jumped a few on the q.t, and seems to enjoy it, but it’s whether her legs would stand it and it’s just a thought.”
Her rider Joey Sheridan said: “I’m over the moon for all the connections and she’s shown the people who doubted her just how good she is.
“We would never have beaten the winner, but on easier ground would have been closer.”
Andrew Balding was also thrilled with Spanish Mission, saying: “We’re thrilled with his run and might look at the Goodwood Cup.”
Jockey William Buick added: “It was a great run, because that trip stretches him. He gave me a great ride.”