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Stradivarius primed in pursuit of fifth Goodwood Cup

Stradivarius bids to put Royal Ascot disappointment behind him by claiming a remarkable fifth victory in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup.

With three Gold Cups at Royal Ascot, back-to-back wins in both the Yorkshire Cup and the Lonsdale Cup and a Doncaster Cup thrown in for good measure, it is fair to say the seven-year-old’s status as one of the sport’s great stayers has long since been assured.

John and Thady Gosden’s charge came up short in his attempt to emulate Yeats with a fourth Gold Cup success last month, but he will be a hot favourite to get back on the winning trail and bring the house down on his return to the Sussex Downs on Tuesday.

“He didn’t have much of a race at Ascot, so that race didn’t seem to knock him back too far physically,” said John Gosden.

“He’s won four Goodwood Cups in a row, which takes some doing. It’s going to be a fascinating race, with some very nice horses turning up, and you’re always going to need some luck in running around Goodwood – given it’s not exactly a big, open galloping track.

“Goodwood is quintessentially different – rolling in and out, left, right and has cambers. It should make for an exciting day on Tuesday.

“He’s been a pleasure and a lot of fun to train through the years – but as a seven-year-old full horse, he probably knows a great deal more about the game than I do!

“It’d be wonderful if he puts in a big performance and runs well or wins, but even to have him there for a fifth time is an achievement for everyone here in itself.”

Stradivarius is set to renew rivalry with several horses who also contested the Gold Cup at the Royal meeting, but sadly not the impressive winner Subjectivist – who will miss the rest of this season because of injury, with his future beyond that uncertain.

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

In Subjectivist’s absence, trainer Mark Johnston saddles his half-brother Sir Ron Priestley and Nayef Road, but admits neither matches up to his sidelined stable star.

“I’d have put Subjectivist alongside Attraction and Shamardal as one of the three best I’ve trained,” said Johnston.

“He was one of those rare horses with which you weren’t really concerned about the opposition, because he was better than anything out there, and I can’t obviously say the same about Nayef Road or even Sir Ron Priestley.”

Sir Ron Priestley is a previous winner at Goodwood and has won both the Jockey Club Stakes and the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket this season.

However, sandwiched in between those runs were disappointing efforts in the Yorkshire Cup and the Hardwicke Stakes, and the five-year-old has to prove his stamina on his first start over two miles.

Johnston added: “We agonised over paying £25,000 to supplement Sir Ron Priestley – and I had to convince myself I was doing it for the owner, not myself, because there’s some uncertainty about the trip.

“In the Yorkshire Cup it looked very much as if he didn’t stay, but it’s hard to equate that with his St Leger second or his Nottingham win, and at the beginning of the year we had no doubt he would stay two miles.”

Nayef Road was runner-up to Stradivarius in last year’s Goodwood Cup, but has not been in the same form so far this term.

“Nayef Road’s recent runs have been mixed, but in some of them he’s shown a glimmer of his best and he deserves to be there on past performance,” added his trainer.

“I don’t think any of us would be surprised if he was in the shake-up, but he’d need a personal best and Stradivarius to be below form if he were to win.”

Spanish Mission winning the Yorkshire Cup
Spanish Mission winning the Yorkshire Cup (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Spanish Mission finished one place ahead of Stradivarius when third in the Gold Cup, but trainer Andrew Balding is more hopeful than confident that he will confirm that form at Goodwood.

He said: “This has been the plan for a long time, and we are really pleased with him – we just wouldn’t want too much rain.

“Stradivarius is a fairly awesome opponent – and if he’s anywhere near his best he’s going to be very tough to beat – but on his Yorkshire Cup win and his Gold Cup third, Spanish Mission ought to be very competitive.”

With soft ground set to prevail on the opening day of the meeting, the horse rated the biggest threat to Stradivarius by bookmakers in a race which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series is Alan King’s proven mud-lover Trueshan.

Last season’s Long Distance Cup scorer missed the Gold Cup after the rain failed to arrive in time, instead carrying a big weight into sixth in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle the following week.

“To see Trueshan at his best, it’s a case of the more rain the better,” said King.

“He looked very good at Ascot on British Champions Day and we’ve been very pleased with him this year. I was very pleased I ran him at Newcastle in the Northumberland Plate, because you can’t keep these horses simmering away forever – and he had a proper race there.

“Everything has gone very smoothly in the build-up since, and we’ll see what happens.”

Aidan O’Brien runs last year’s Derby hero Serpentine, Irish Derby winner Santiago and recent Curragh Cup scorer Amhran Na Bhfiann, all of whom finished down the field in the Gold Cup.

Santiago after winning the Irish Derby
Santiago after winning the Irish Derby (PA)

“We’re just not really sure with Santiago whether he gets the two miles,” said O’Brien.

“He could have to go back to a mile and six, and he could have to go back to a mile and a half.

“He had a very good run in the Goodwood Cup last year (finished third) and he’s been very well since Ascot. We’re very happy with him and very happy with his work.

“Amhran Na Bhfiann is a horse we think likes to be ridden forward – and we think going back to two miles is going to suit him.

“He ran in the Gold Cup, and we made plenty of use of him. Maybe, over that trip, we might have made too much use of him.

“We think he’s a horse who is progressing with every run.”

Setback scuppers Ocean Wind’s Goodwood Cup bid

A setback has ruled Ocean Wind of next week’s Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup.

The five-year-old did not appear in the six-day confirmations for the Group One showpiece over two miles on the opening day of the Goodwood Festival.

Trainer Roger Teal had been looking forward to taking on Stradivarius again on Tuesday, after Ocean Wind ran John Gosden’s brilliant stayer to a length in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in April.

But he said: “He’s had a bit of a setback, so he’s going to miss Goodwood.

“We are just monitoring him and checking him, and (will) then see what we do for the rest of the season.

“It’s not very serious, but we just need to give him a bit of time. It’s not bad, but we just have to monitor the situation at the moment.

“It’s very disappointing – we’ve come so close.”

Teal points Ocean Wind towards Goodwood

Ocean Wind is set to take on top stayers Stradivarius and Subjectivist in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup.

The five-year-old has pleased trainer Roger Teal after being freshened up since the Henry II Stakes at Sandown.

Ocean Wind disappointed connections there a month ago as a distant third to Lismore, despite starting as odds-on favourite, and he has been given plenty of time to recover.

The Teofilo entire had shown his ability on his previous start when beaten only a length by Stradivarius in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

It had been the plan to go for the Gold Cup – and although his poor Sandown effort put paid to that, Teal reports Ocean Wind back in fine shape at home.

The Lambourn trainer said: “He’s good – he’s going to go to Goodwood.

“We’ve jut freshened him up after a hard race at Sandown. That (soft) ground just caught him out that day.

“We missed Ascot, because there was no point going there on the back of that.

“We’re going to keep him nice and fresh and go to Goodwood.”

Teal knows it will be a tough assignment taking on Stradivarius, winner of the Goodwood Cup for the last four years, and Gold Cup winner Subjectivist – but he is ready to let Ocean Wind take his chance.

“You can’t leave them in their stables – he’s got there on merit,” he said.

“You can’t hide – you’ve got to take them on and take your medicine.”

“Fair play to Subjectivist – I know Stradivarius got into a bit of bother, but I’m not sure he’d have beaten him anyway.

“The (Mark) Johnston horse was very impressive.”

Subjectivist and Stradivarius on track for Goodwood showdown

Subjectivist and Stradivarius are all set to do battle once more in the £500,000 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup on July 27.

Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist proved he is every bit as good as he looked in his previous wins in France and Meydan with a dominant performance in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

He foiled the bid of Stradivarius to join Yeats as a four-time Gold Cup winner, with John and Thady Gosden’s seven-year-old finishing only fourth, after what was a less than ideal passage.

“Subjectivist has had a very easy time of it since his run in the Gold Cup. He will have a gradual return back to full work, with the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup being the next target,” said Johnston.

“Looking back at the Gold Cup, it was a very exciting performance. Whichever way you look at it, whether it be the form, the time, the sectional times, the distance he won by, it all points to it being an absolutely top-drawer performance.

“In fairness, his win before that in Dubai was very good, but I suppose everybody is generally slightly sceptical of the Dubai form. But at Ascot he confirmed it by running a very similar race in terms of style. I don’t think there are any doubts about the horse now.

“It is well documented that I love the stayers, and it means a huge amount to me personally to have a horse like this. With horses who run in these big two-mile plus races, the big concern is can you keep them sound, but barring any injuries or problems, he is an extremely exciting horse to have.”

Regarding the rematch, Johnston is keen to get it on.

He said: “I think if you read my blog, you will see that I said ‘Subjectivist was bred by Susan Hearn, Barry Hearn’s wife, and if this was another sport, Barry Hearn would be promoting the rematch and we’d all be making a lot of money out of it!’. But seriously, a big clash between these two horses at Goodwood will be very good for racing.”

Also among the 27 entries are Andrew Balding’s Spanish Mission, the Joseph O’Brien-trained duo of Twilight Payment and Baron Samedi and last year’s Derby winner Serpentine, trained by Aidan O’Brien.