Stradivarius and Frankie Dettori opened a new chapter here on Friday in what was already one of the more remarkable racing stories of recent decades, as the chestnut set off on his seventh – and surely final – campaign with a one-length win in the Group Two Yorkshire Cup.
The victory, the 20th of Stradivarius’s 33-race career, set a new record for Group-race wins in Europe and took his unbeaten streak on the Knavesmire to six races. Perhaps most importantly, though, given the recent drop in attendances at many high-profile meetings, it also sent the crowd home with an “I was there” moment that will keep them coming back for more.
Stradivarius’s 18th Group-race success took him one clear of Cirrus Des Aigles among European-trained Flat horses, and his record is all the more remarkable for having been achieved without a gelding operation at some point to keep his mind on the job at hand.
He hit a brief flat spot just over a quarter of a mile out on Friday but once Dettori had persuaded Stradivarius to lengthen, he showed all his old and familiar enthusiasm to sweep into the lead a little more readily, perhaps, than even his rider had expected.
“John and Thady [Gosden, who train Stradivarius] have got to take all the credit really,” Dettori said. “They’ve changed different things to get him interested, worked him from the front and the back, taken him to different places, just to get him motivated as he’s been going on those gallops for six years.
“He looked the same as he usually does, travelled with zest, showed a good turn of foot and then he pulls up in front, but we know he does that.
“My mouth is a bit dry and I’m emotional, but what an incredible story. All roads lead to [the] Ascot [Gold Cup] for one more roll of the dice. Let’s hope the ground stays dry.”
Stradivarius was cut to around 3-1 (from 6-1) to win the Ascot Gold Cup for a record-equalling fourth time next month, when he would also be only the third eight-year-old winner in the race’s 215-year history. Yeats, the only horse to date with four Gold Cup wins, was also eight for his final Ascot success in 2009.
“If he was an eight-year-old gelding, it would be a different ballgame,” John Gosden said afterwards. “He’s done well mentally to get himself there, he knows the gallops and he knows everything backwards.
“I’m quite careful with the way I train him. If you tried to rub his nose in it, he’d tell you what to do with the game.
“As long as the ground doesn’t go soft or heavy, then we hope to go on to Ascot. I think if he had this ground, he’d take a lot of beating.”
Greg Wood’s TV tips
Baaeed could set off as the shortest-priced favourite for the Lockinge Stakes since the mighty Frankel a decade ago at Newbury on Saturday, but this may not be as straightforward an assignment for William Haggas’s unbeaten colt as the betting might suggest.
Baaeed was flawless in six starts last season and has a big year ahead of him at the highest level, but he is only 5lb clear of the field on Timeform’s ratings, has not seen a racecourse for 210 days and faces three significant rivals that have all had at least one run in 2022.
If there is a day to take him on at short odds, this is surely it, and while the two Group One-winning fillies in the field, Mother Earth and Alcohol Free, get 3lb from the favourite, the most interesting option is Saeed bin Suroor’s Real World (3.20) at around 8-1.
The five-year-old has yet to score at Group One level but put up one of the best handicapping performances for years in the Royal Hunt Cup last summer and then reeled off four more wins, including a pair of Group Twos, with something in hand each time.
Real World was below his best on dirt at Meydan last time, but that was also true before the Hunt Cup last year and his odds may seriously underestimate his chance.
Newbury 1.35 Tiber Flow is unraced on turf but his latest run at Newcastle is the strongest form on offer and he has more scope for improvement than most of his rivals.
Newmarket 1.50 Post Impressionist went clear in a matter of strides at Ayr last time and should find more for this step up in trip.
Newbury 2.10 A 7lb penalty makes life difficult for Eshaada but she may still have the class to come out on top.
Newmarket 2.25 Harry Three is progressing by the race and can get an overdue first win of the season here.
Newbury 2.45 Always one of the strongest handicaps in the early months of the season, with three of the last four winners going on to win a Group Two and one – Defoe – landing a Group One. Israr, a son of Oaks winner Taghrooda, looks the likeliest candidate to extend the sequence.
Newmarket 3.00 Joe Fanning could get a soft lead on Wizard D’Amour and that would give him a real chance to reverse recent form with Shine So Bright.