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Stradivarius faces 10 rivals in bid for fifth Goodwood Cup

Stradivarius is set to face 10 rivals in his bid for a remarkable fifth victory in Tuesday’s Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup.

John and Thady Gosden’s superstar stayer has landed the two-mile Group One ever year since 2017, beating the great Double Trigger’s record of three victories in the race in the 1990s.

Despite having come up short in his bid for a fourth Gold Cup success at Royal Ascot last month, Stradivarius will be a hot favourite to get back on the winning trail on the Sussex Downs under Frankie Dettori.

With his Gold Cup hero Subjectivist sidelined by injury, Mark Johnston instead saddles his half-brother Sir Ron Priestley and his stablemate Nayef Road.

Sir Ron Priestley steps up to two miles for the first time off the back of winning the Group Two Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket over a mile and a half, while Nayef Road was runner-up to Stradivarius in last year’s Goodwood Cup, but has been disappointing of late.

Andrew Balding will have high hopes for Spanish Mission, who was one place ahead of Stradivarius when third in the Gold Cup.

Franny Norton celebrates after winning the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes on Sir Ron Priestley
Franny Norton celebrates after winning the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes on Sir Ron Priestley (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Aidan O’Brien retains a strong hand, with recent Curragh Cup winner Amhran Na Bhfiann joined by Serpentine and Santiago, who won the Derby and the Irish Derby respectively last season.

The Donnacha O’Brien-trained Emperor Of The Sun is a fourth Irish challenger.

Away He Goes (Ismail Mohammed), Mekong (Jamie Osborne) and Trueshan (Alan King) complete the field.

Stradivarius’ owner Bjorn Nielsen expects his Goodwood rivals to “try to make it difficult” for the reigning champion, but he believes his star stayer can to rise to the challenge in an event which is part of the Qipco British Champions series.

He said: “Most of the time when you go racing as an owner you hope they run well, and you hope maybe they’ll win, but Stradivarius is that rarest of horse and it’s been the case since he won his first Gold Cup that you go there hoping he isn’t going to lose, so the feeling watching a race is the opposite to what it normally is.

“The way it is with him now is that he’s always the one they have to beat and they ride to beat him, so a lot of horses will be trying to make sure he doesn’t have a good run round. They are going to try to make it difficult for him and that’s what happened at Ascot. But if he’s out and about he’s going to win.”

Stradivarius and Frankie Dettori after winning at Goodwood last year
Stradivarius and Frankie Dettori after winning at Goodwood last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nielsen would have relished a rematch with Subjectivist at Goodwood and while that rival will not line up, the owner is still anticipating a tough test.

He said: “Stradivarius had worked very well before the Gold Cup and we were pretty confident he was going to run a huge race, but things just didn’t work out – no disrespect to Subjectivist, who was well trained, well ridden, and quickened up exactly as we were getting stopped.

“I was really looking forward to the rematch but we’ll never know now what might have happened. But Subjectivist wouldn’t have been that far ahead of us again turning in if he were here, I’m sure of that.

“There are still some very good horses there though, and any rain is going to suit Trueshan. We can’t underestimate Sir Ron Priestley either, who Mark Johnston has supplemented and is no slouch. You are always going to need some luck in running at Goodwood too – things have to go your way.”