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Stradivarius strolls to his second Doncaster Cup

Superstar stayer Stradivarius produced another imperious display to bag his second Doncaster Cup.

John and Thady Gosden’s seven-year-old has dominated the division in recent seasons, with his illustrious CV including three Gold Cups at Royal Ascot, four Goodwood Cups, three Lonsdale Cups and two Yorkshire Cups.

With his chief rival Trueshan missing this potential clash on account of unsuitable ground, Stradivarius was the 4-11 favourite to regain his crown on Town Moor – and the result was scarcely ever in doubt.

Given a confident ride by Frankie Dettori, the son of Sea The Stars cruised into contention in the home straight, with the popular Italian looking round for non-existent dangers as he moved alongside the front-running Nayef Road.

Once given his head, Stradivarius readily extended clear – passing the post with two and a half lengths in hand over Alerta Roja, who beat Nayef Road to the runner-up spot.

Gosden said: “He’s a wonderful horse. He’s been great at home. He’s enjoyed all his training. He loves his racing and likes coming racing.

“He’s a phenomenon.

Frankie Dettori celebrates with a flying dismount
Frankie Dettori celebrates with a flying dismount (PA)

“I had no qualms about coming here. He senses a horse coming to him and plays cat and mouse with them now.

“I couldn’t have been more thrilled with him. I’m sorry the other horse (Trueshan) didn’t run but maybe we’ll meet one day.

“He’s had a great season. He’s won three out of four. Frankie’s ride in the Gold Cup wasn’t his greatest. The winner was mighty impressive and the sad thing for me in the year is that we couldn’t run at Goodwood, because he adores Goodwood.

“His enthusiasm is there 100 per cent and I can assure everyone who loves him, the moment it’s not there he will be retired. Until that day comes, which he will tell us, he will race.”

Gosden is now considering the autumn options in France and Britain for Stradivarius.

He said: “There are two races in the autumn – the Cadran and Ascot (Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup). Ascot last year was heavy and he hated it. Those are the options. It will be one not both.

“He’ll go on summer soft but not when it goes autumn deep. He cannot take it. It was a mistake to run him in it last year and in the Arc.

“He lives a bit on the edge. He lets us know what he wants. I’ve always adored stayers and to train him is a dream come true.”

Dettori added: “That was great. It’s probably the easiest race he’s had since last year when he was here.

“He made it look easy again. He still loves his racing.”

Trueshan misses Doncaster Cup

Trueshan will miss his intended re-match with Stradivarius in the Doncaster Cup, because of a lack of significant rain on Town Moor.

Trainer Alan King had indicated on Thursday that the Goodwood Cup winner would not take his chance in the Group Two feature unless overnight rain softened the forecast good to firm ground.

It was therefore no surprise when King made an early announcement on Friday morning that Trueshan will be a non-runner because of the going – leaving John and Thady Gosden’s brilliant stayer Stradivarius with just five opponents as he bids to regain his Doncaster title.

The going at Doncaster remains good to firm, after 5mm of rain on Thursday.

Dettori cherishing every moment with Doncaster-bound Stradivarius

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.

Stradivarius (right) just got the better of Spanish Mission at York
Stradivarius (right) just got the better of Spanish Mission at York (Nigel French/PA)

“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.

Stradivarius has been a magnificent servant to his connections
Stradivarius has been a magnificent servant to his connections (Nigel French/PA)

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.”

Doncaster Cup may be springboard for Spanish Mission

Spanish Mission may be set for high-profile and long-distance adventures next year if he first proves up to the task in the bet365 Doncaster Cup on Town Moor.

The 2021 Ascot Gold Cup and Melbourne Cup perhaps sound ambitious, but the four-year-old will be taking a big step in that direction should he lift Friday’s historic two-and-a-quarter-mile Group Two contest.

Spanish Mission has some smart form on the board, including victory in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket last year and finishing second in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown in May, when trained by David Simcock.

He is now with Andrew Balding and got off the mark first time for the Kingsclere handler in a Listed race over an extended mile and three-quarters at Chester last month.

“What we wanted to do was to give him a freshener and give him his best chance to win and feel good – and it worked,” said Barry Irwin, founder and chief executive of Team Valor, who own the horse with Gary Barber.

“He won off David Simcock’s training, and he was pointing him at this race, so he deserves the credit for that even though he didn’t have the horse that day.

“Since then the horse has done well, according to Andrew. He phoned me on Saturday after he had worked the horse, (and) he was very enthusiastic and very happy.

“Andrew and I had a long conversation, and his idea was if the horse stays two and a quarter or two and a half miles, he could be an ideal horse for the Ascot Gold Cup next year.

“He does have a turn of foot, which most stayers don’t. He goes to the Doncaster Cup in good form. If he can do it, next year we know what to do. If not, we’ll go back to the drawing board.”

He added: “The long-term goal with this horse is the Melbourne Cup – not this year, but next year when he’s five, and the year after when he’s six and more mature.

“He was a light-bodied horse last year. This year he’s got better, and I think next year he’ll reach his maturity and we’ll find out if can do it.”

Among Spanish Mission’s rivals, Revolver has gone from strength to strength since moved up in trip and is unbeaten in six handicaps this season.

However, Sir Mark Prescott’s three-year-old is taking a big rise in class for a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

“He’s a very tall, leggy, narrow horse, but athletic and keeps winning,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“He’s won over two miles and one at Pontefract, so we know he stays, and the big, galloping track at Doncaster suits him.

“It’s a question of whether he’s good enough. Other horses in there would have a bit more class and have done it time and time again.”

Revolver steps up in class at Doncaster
Revolver steps up in class at Doncaster (Tim Goode/PA)

Prescott, 72 – who has been training at Heath House in Newmarket for 50 years – did not expect Revolver to prove such a potent force over long distances, or be so prolific.

“He’s by a sprinter (Slade Power), and when we started him we were thinking he would be a seven-furlong or mile horse – but he didn’t work particularly well,” he said.

“As he went up in distance he stayed and stayed, which you wouldn’t have expected. He works well now that he’s with the stayers. As long as you get it right in the end, as we have with him, then it’s OK, but we don’t always.”

Pallasator was a Doncaster Cup winner for Sir Mark Prescott
Pallasator was a Doncaster Cup winner for Sir Mark Prescott (Mike Egerton/PA)

Since 1995, 11 three-year-olds have contested the race – and Prescott has been responsible for six of them. His challengers have either won, been placed or run creditably.

He said: “I suppose we specialise in staying three-year-olds, but we also won it with Pallasator (in 2015), too, when he was a six-year-old. Revolver is a very nice horse.”

Red Verdon is a dual course winner, but has yet to run over this extreme distance.

However, he has run creditably over two miles in the past, including when second in the Group Two Henry II Stakes at Sandown in 2018.

His two wins from three starts this term both came over a mile and three-quarters.

The seven-year-old was not quite as effective on heavy ground when fourth to Telecaster over an extended mile and a half at Deauville on his latest start.

Red Verdon is trying a new trip but has plenty of high-class form to his name
Red Verdon is trying a new trip but has plenty of high-class form to his name (Steve Davies/PA)

Trainer Ed Dunlop is happy to put a line through that performance.

“It was very deep ground, the last run, so probably it’s best to ignore that,” he said.

“The ground will be better at Doncaster. First time at this trip, but he’s run over two miles before.

“He seems well, and fingers crossed. It’s competitive, but he’s in good form and we’ll give it a go.”

The David O’Meara stable is represented by Eagles By Day – with Heather Main’s Island Brave, the James Fanshawe-trained Selino and The Grand Visir, for Ian Williams, completing the seven-strong field.