The mighty stayer Stradivarius (John Gosden/Frankie Dettori, 4/7 Fav) created history on Tuesday 28th July by becoming the first horse to win the G1 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup four times, adding to his wins in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
He previously shared the honour of three Goodwood Cup wins with Double Trigger (1995, 1997, 1998).
It was Nayef Road (Mark Johnston/Andrea Atzeni, 20/1) who took the seven-strong field along. He still held the advantage entering the straight, with Stradivarius looking a bit short of room. It was not until inside the final furlong that Stradivarius found the necessary opening and quickened impressively, taking the lead half a furlong out and recording an ultimately cosy length success over Nayef Road. The 15/8 second favourite, this season’s G1 Irish Derby winner Santiago (Aidan O’Brien IRE/Ryan Moore), held every chance two furlongs out but was unable to quicken in the final furlong and finished third.
Trainer John Gosden said: “Stradivarius is not big in stature and actually today he is carrying 10st 1lb because he has 3lbs for the jockey’s equipment and 3lbs for the weight allowance due to Covid-19 and the way the season is.
“So, to carry 141lbs round two miles on dead ground – it’s beautiful ground, but slow ground – is some achievement. He had to work for it today. He came in pretty relaxed about it, but it is no penalty kick as I said earlier in the week.
“He has been in tremendous form since Royal Ascot. But I knew that, you know, you keep piling those big races on. He ran in the Coronation Cup [1m 4f, Newmarket, 5th June] and he ran brilliantly and obviously the Gold Cup before this, so he is going to have a freshen up now.
“I knew he was in very good order, but I think it is something like this where Frankie wanted to wait and pounce rather than get in a slogging match from three and a half, two furlongs down. Once he has gone and won, he is quite clever now and thinks he has done his job, so you can’t get there too soon as he pulls himself up like he did last year.
“Last year Frankie started waving at the crowd and he went from a length up to only a neck up at the line, and nearly gave the race back.
“Look, Stradivarius is a fabulous horse, he was cool as a dude in the winner’s enclosure afterwards.
“The owner [Bjorn Nielsen] wants to go a different route with him now. Obviously, the Weatherbys Hamilton was a fantastic £1 million bonus which they have put on for two years running so he would have gone for the Lonsdale Cup at York, but that bonus doesn’t exist anymore.
“So instead, he would like to freshen him up, give him a nice holiday and go for the Prix Foy at Longchamp in September. If he runs a nice race there and handles the track and everything, then he will run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“I think he showed enormous speed when third in the Coronation Cup. Ghaiyyath broke the track record and he was there third probably equalling the track record. Obviously, his work might be a little sharper but not dramatically.
“This horse has got a turn of foot and I will play to those strengths. I don’t go and work him over great long distances, he only runs over them. He wouldn’t work much beyond seven furlongs and sometimes over a mile and 110 yards on the round gallop.
“He is a horse you like to play along with the way he wants to do things – he is a great character.
“He was flashy last time and here, he had to grind it out. It was a little bit rope-a-dope, but that was the way it was going to be with 10st 1lb on your back. We will go to the Prix Foy next and he will return to more normal weights.
“Let us hope Enable and Stradivarius are in top order [for the Arc]. Frankie will have to decide what he is riding, I probably know the answer, but that will be his decision. You will have some lovely three-year-old fillies like Love the Oaks winner in the race probably as well. There could be Sottsass and other French runners along with horses from the Juddmonte International.”
Frankie Dettori said: “Obviously, Santiago was the one that I feared most. I was trying to get in front of him from the start, but Tom Marquand already had that slot. I wanted to get cover so I had to drop back one place, and then as we go to the back, I got in behind the wheels of Santiago, and I thought, you know, we have got 15lb less weight, he will make that weight difference count and kick early, but it turned out to be a two-furlong sprint. If you want to sprint with Stradivarius, then you have got to be pretty good. And although I was boxed in for a furlong, once I got out he has just got too many gears. I was surprised by the way the race panned out; I didn’t expect the Goodwood Cup to become a two-furlong sprint.
“I thought Nayef Road would go a good gallop and I thought Santiago would wind it up from three and a half and make me work and make me carry that weight, but he didn’t. Good for me.
“I was worried when I was held in, because obviously when you do a sprint it takes you a furlong to really find the rhythm, and once the sprint came I thought that is his break. His greatest weapon is his turn of foot; I don’t remember a stayer with a turn of foot like his. OK, he won the Gold Cup [at Ascot] by 10 lengths, but he always wins by a short margin; he passes them and he thinks he has done enough, so I think a combination of that and his class; he’s small but he is all heart.
“This was his biggest test; he was taking on a Derby winner in Santiago, you know, and giving him 15lb. It is pretty good going.
“This was a good performance because under the circumstances he still won. You can’t run away from the fact that the Gold Cup was his best performance, but he is very versatile and even though circumstances did not favour him today, he still won.”
Asked about the possibility of Stradivarius dropping back in trip to a mile and a half for G1 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, Dettori said: “Bjorn Neilsen is toying with the idea of having a crack at the Arc. I am not going to put him off, if he wants to, why not. Obviously, I am on Enable at the moment, but who knows? I am not going to discourage him. He has done nothing wrong and there’s a possibility the ground would come very soft, which he doesn’t mind.”
Owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen added: “It’s for other people to say [whether Stradivarius is one of the great stayers] but I think he deserves to be in the conversation. Those three big horses [Sagaro, Le Moss & Ardross] and Yeats obviously as well, and you can’t take Double Trigger out of there. They are real horses and it is an amazing thing that Stradivarius turns up on my doorstep because I don’t have a big stable. You have guys like Sheikh Mohammed with 500 horses and Coolmore with all their horses, how do I wind up with Stradivarius? There is a lot of luck involved, a lot of luck.
“The demand for him commercially as a stallion isn’t there like as if he had won just a G1 race over a mile. A horse who has won over a mile in a G1 race, even if it was only one, would fetch a higher stud fee than he would. It’s just the way, the trend, the fashion. Hopefully, it reverts and there is some demand for these horses because, if you breed faster mares to a horse like him, it’s the same as breeding slower mares to a faster stallion. People will wake up and we will have to breed a good horse out of him!
“We talked about a year ago and John said that if Stradivarius stays healthy next year, we are going to train him for the Arc. We will run him in the Cup races but there is no bonus this year, so there is no Lonsdale for him. He will have six weeks off now and probably go for the [Prix] Foy three weeks before the Arc and then we will go there. Unfortunately, I am sure that we won’t have our jockey but we will have to find a substitute.”
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father Mark, said of runner-up Nayef Road: “Nayef Road has run a great race. We have finished second to Stradivarius five times now, three times with Dee Ex Bee and twice now with this lad so we are quite used to the position.
“The horse has run a phenomenal race and there was a minute this time when I thought we would win. However, it is the sign of a true champion that he always manages to get himself out of trouble and gets the job done however things pan out for him.
“We are delighted to finish second. One day he won’t be here and hopefully we will be with one horse. We would have liked to have held on to Double Trigger’s record for one more year.
“There is the Prix du Cadran which we could target, but we would prefer to stay at home, so we’ll see. The horse has finished second in two Group Ones now, but Ascot or Doncaster and the obvious races as options.
“We could be back here again next year.”
3.15pm G1 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup (British Champions Series) 2m
1 Stradivarius – John Gosden 6-9-09 Frankie Dettori 4/7 Fav
2 Nayef Road – Mark Johnston 4-9-09 Andrea Atzeni 20/1
3 Santiago – Aidan O’Brien 3-8-08 Ryan Moore 15/8
Winner owned by Bjorn Nielsen
Breeding: ch h Sea The Stars (IRE) – Private Life (FR) (Bering)
Breeder: Bjorn Nielsen
Time: 3m 35.07s
Distances: 1, 1¼
John Gosden – 41st winner at the Qatar Goodwood Festival
Frankie Dettori – 73rd winner at the Qatar Goodwood Festival