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York and Doncaster on the agenda for Stradivarius

John Gosden will look to York and Doncaster with Stradivarius, after the superstar stayer was denied his attempt at a fifth successive victory in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup due to ground conditions.

The Bjorn Nielsen-owned gelding has carried all before him in the Group One over two miles, and was aiming to return to winning ways after his defeat in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

However, an overnight deluge saw the ground turn to heavy, soft in places before the start of racing – and after assessing conditions following the first race on the Downs, Stradivarius’ handlers opted not to run.

John and Thady Gosden talk to owner Bjorn Nielsen at Goodwood
John and Thady Gosden talk to owner Bjorn Nielsen at Goodwood (PA)

Gosden, who trains Stradivarius with his son Thady, said: “It’s difficult because obviously we were very keen to try to do something that has never been done before, which is win five Goodwood Cups in a row. He is in great form, full of himself and ready to run but I’m afraid when you get 60mm of rain since midday Sunday and another bucketload last night…

“I walked the track out in the country with Thady and the stick is going straight to the bottom. It turns it into a bit of a two-mile slog and Stradivarius is a horse who can travel with a great acceleration and a great turn of foot.

“He can put in pretty amazing fractions for the last two/three furlongs but you are not going to do it on that ground. I think at his age, you have to play to his strengths.

John Gosden had to make a difficult decision with Stradivarius
John Gosden had to make a difficult decision with Stradivarius (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We made foolish decisions last year to run him at Longchamp on bottomless ground by the River Seine, which he loathed, and then even more stupid to run him on Champions Day on very heavy ground at Ascot. Having made the mistake twice, we weren’t quite prepared to do the same thing again.

“All being well and doing things right by the horse, we would like to go to the Lonsdale at York, which is a race he knows well. The easiest thing is to run, the hardest thing is not to run. You must always remember to do what is in the best interests of the horse.

“All being well, we will go to the Lonsdale and look at something like the Doncaster Cup after that.”

Doyle and King take over at the top with Trueshan

The Goodwood Cup has, in recent years, been a race whose title is always spoken alongside the name of just one horse – Stradivarius.

The beloved chestnut’s long-time rider, Frankie Dettori, is next in that sentence, and the ever-statesmanlike John Gosden surely follows.

Little had changed as the scene was set for the 2021 renewal of the race, if anything the aforementioned trio were absorbing more of the limelight than ever as they prepared to jointly bid for a record-breaking fifth success.

The record ripe for breaking was of course set by Stradivarius himself, who has dominated both the contest and the division throughout his unusually long career.

But then the rain came, heavy and relentless, and the limelight refocused on another of racing’s out and out stars – Hollie Doyle.

Trueshan pulling up after his Group One success
Trueshan pulling up after his Group One success (John Walton/PA)

Doyle was booked to ride Trueshan, the mud-loving stayer trained by Alan King, who is more readily associated with the National Hunt circuit having saddled 15 winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

The weather had left the ground not unlike a wet day at Prestbury Park, however, and that inspired punters to back Trueshan in their droves, as he ultimately returned as the 6-5 favourite, with Stradivarius a ground-enforced absentee.

The gelding ran exuberantly in the early stages of the two-mile affair, fighting with the diminutive Doyle and making matters harder that necessary when refusing to settle into the steady pace set by the race leaders.

Reluctant to be boxed in by the rail, Doyle cut forward to cruise in the slipstream of those ahead of her and masterfully eased the bay into the rhythm he had been opposing.

From there she was perfectly poised to throw down her challenge, taking up the lead with two furlongs left to travel and driving Trueshan across the line with his nearest rival three and three-quarters of a length behind him.

The second-placed horse, Ismail Mohammed’s Away He Goes, earned a smattering applause for his valiant run in defeat at written-off odds of 33-1, but Doyle was received by a sizeable Goodwood crowd like a favourite daughter on sports day.

Celebration time following Trueshan's success in the Goodwood Cup
Celebration time following Trueshan’s success in the Goodwood Cup (John Walton/PA)

King, who was leaving the glamour of Goodwood on Tuesday evening to search for new National Hunt performers, admitted the pre-race pressure had been intense.

“I’ve been very calm all morning and then suddenly when John took out Stradivarius we got shorter and shorter,” he said.

“The nerves really started to kick in, I haven’t been this nervous in a long time, I can tell you.”

Looking to further big days with his stable star, King said: “He is in the Lonsdale (Cup, at York) and he is in the Irish St Leger (at the Curragh). I will talk to the boys, but we will probably take him out in the morning at the forfeit stage.

“The Cadran (ParisLongchamp, on Arc weekend) will probably be his big target in the autumn.”

Doyle, whose calm, affable disposition never seems to waver, even found herself uncharacteristically anxious ahead of her ride.

“I never really feel pressure and I never get nervous, but today something did come over me as I didn’t want to let everyone down,” she said.

“I was very confident, but I haven’t had many Group One experiences, especially on a 10-11 odds-on shot, so I was feeling it a bit more than normal.”

Hollie Doyle following victory in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup
Hollie Doyle following victory in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup (John Walton/PA)

Doyle claimed a first Group One success on Champions Day at Ascot in 2020, with Glen Shiel the hero in question as he took the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

“When I got a taste of the success at Ascot on Glen Shiel, I got a bit more hungry and determined to want it more often,” she said.

A Goodwood Cup triumph seemed to invoke the same appetite for glory once again, as Doyle rolled on to a second success aboard Lord Riddiford in the Back To Goodwood Handicap, and a third when winning the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes with Sisters In The Sky.

“This is one of the best days I’ve ever had,” she said.

“I got some buzz off that, I don’t get too high or too low but when you get experiences like that, you’ve got to make the most of it haven’t you?

“It’s very special, I’ll still be smiling in the next, I’ll be smiling all week!”

Doyle deserves to smile, King deserves to smile, and the authors of the Goodwood script can smile too, for whilst it seemed the star of their cast was sorely missing, in this instance the understudy proved to be every bit as good.

Stradivarius forced to miss Goodwood Cup due to ground conditions

Stradivarius was denied his attempt at a fifth successive victory in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup due to ground conditions.

John and Thady Gosden’s star stayer has carried all before him in the Group One over two miles, and was aiming to return to wining ways after his defeat in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

However, an overnight deluge saw the ground turn to heavy, soft in places before the start of racing – and after assessing conditions following the first race on the Downs, Stradivarius’ handlers opted not to run.

John and Thady Gosden talk to owner Bjorn Nielsen at Goodwood
John and Thady Gosden talk to owner Bjorn Nielsen at Goodwood (PA)

Gosden senior said: “There has been so much rain since Sunday my stick went right to the hilt and for a horse with his acceleration, it could have become a slogging match.

“He disliked the ground at Longchamp which is next to the River Seine, and loathed it on Champions Day at Ascot. The easiest thing is to run and the hardest not to run. We had made the mistake twice and were not prepared to make it again.

“But it’s been a difficult decision taking stock of the fact he would have tried to achieve something that has never been done before.

“I do think that when this happens there is an option to switch to the inner track, but as things stand we will look to run him at York in the Lonsdale Cup.”

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.