Stradivarius, one of horse racing’s modern greats, bids to confirm his legendary status when going for a fourth successive victory in the G1 Ascot Gold Cup (3991m).
The horse and the race are made for each other and Stradivarius’s successes and the manner in which he has achieved them have made him a favourite with race fans. For a horse ideally suited by the historic race’s testing distance, Stradivarius has a telling turn of foot.
As Mark Johnston, trainer of Subjectivist, Stradivarius’s main rival, puts it, “Stradivarius has absolutely tremendous gears, sits a bit off the pace then comes motoring home.”
Joint trainers John Gosden and his son Thady are in awe of a horse Thady describes as “remarkable – to sustain the level of form for all those years and to retain his zest and zeal is amazing.” John said, “He has always been a great character, an enormous personality, very full of himself, very cocky and a lot of fun to train.”
The big question is whether, as a seven-year-old, Stradivarius can do it again?
John Gosden said: “He’s a class horse and we hope that he can maintain that. These are never easy races to win but he had a nice trial when winning the Sagaro Stakes (G3 over 3190m at Ascot in April). The old horse has his enthusiasm still. He’s got the speed – he likes the Gold Cup distance and there’s no reason why he won’t put up one of his vintage performances.”
Johnston has no illusions about the scale of the challenge but believes that, with Subjectivist, he has his best chance yet of beating Stradivarius. In 2019 he trained the runner-up, Dee Ex Bee and last year again played second fiddle with Nayef Road.
Johnston reflected, “We thought in Dee Ex Bee we had the absolute perfect Cup horse but Stradivarius made short work of him.”
Subjectivist, a four-year-old, put up an exciting display when strolling away with the G2 Dubai Gold Cup (3200m) at Meydan in March.
Johnston said, “I couldn’t have been happier with him in Dubai. He had an injury there and it took him a little while to come back from that. Otherwise everything has gone very smoothly and he is very well. I think this is the best horse I’ve gone to war with Stradivarius with. We know what a tall order that is. We’ve got to hope we’ve got the best horse on the day.”
Johnston’s son Charlie added: “He is a bigger, stronger horse this year. Last year you could struggle to keep condition on him but this year he’s taken all the work we have thrown at him.”
Both horses are versatile – Stradivarius has won the Gold Cup on both soft and good to firm ground, while Subjectivist won last year’s G1 Prix Royal-Oak (3100m) at Longchamp on heavy ground followed by much faster going at Meydan.
Trainers Alan King and Andrew Balding add further spice to the contest with their very useful stayers Trueshan and Spanish Mission but all eyes will be on the mighty Stradivarius.