Stradivarius ready for British Champions Day at Ascot

Frankie Dettori guides Stradivarius to victory
Frankie Dettori guides Stradivarius to victory

Stradivarius is “full of himself” and on course to try and cap another flawless campaign with a repeat victory in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Saturday week.

The supreme stayer has not lost for two years and extended his winning sequence to ten with an easy success in the Magners Rosé Doncaster Cup last month.

Earlier in the summer he had won a second Matchbook Yorkshire Cup, a second Gold Cup, a third Qatar Goodwood Cup and a second Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup – exploits that secured his connections a second consecutive Stayers’ Million bonus offered by Weatherbys Hamilton.

His owner-breeder, Bjorn Nielsen, has issued a positive bulletin ahead of QIPCO British Champions Day and also assured racing fans that his intention is to keep the John Gosden-trained five-year-old in training next year with a third win in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot the main objective.

Nielsen said: "John tells me that Stradivarius is full of himself and ready to go. I’ve noticed they have changed the time of his race from the first to the third – they don’t want people to be having their lunch when he runs!

"Coming into this season John told me the horse had improved a lot strength-wise from four to five, much more so than he did between three and four.

"That’s been borne out as he’s won his races fairly handily. First time out he was a little bit rusty; in the Gold Cup he was on the bridle turning in and won comfortably. At Goodwood he hunted the same horses and pretty much did the same thing in the Lonsdale. In the Doncaster Cup he had a 5lb penalty but was running against horses rated a fair amount below him.

"I know people were surprised to see him run at Doncaster but it would never have been eight weeks between races had he not done so. Last year it would have been too much for him because he was tired after a flat run in the Lonsdale but this year John said he was so full of himself that he needed to have another run."

Stradivarius has won a record 11 races that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series umbrella – two more than the tally Frankel achieved in 2011 and 2012. His career earnings are nudging £4.5 million, taking into account the bonuses he has won.

Nielsen said: "He’s been a once in a lifetime horse for me, truly incredible. I’m so lucky to own him. You always bond better with the good ones, especially those who are paying the bills. And he doesn’t bite me!

"According to John he’s a big character. He says when he comes home from his races, especially this year when it’s been easier for him, that he tells everyone in the yard how clever he is. I don’t understand his language, so I can’t tell you if it’s true, but that’s what John seems to think.

"I read somewhere that he and Frankel are the only horses that have won five Champions Series races in a year, which he’s done twice now. If he achieves the sixth on Saturday week he will be the only horse to have done it – and also be tied with Frankel for second. That would be some feat.

"His big weapon is his turn of foot against the stayers. He has what they don’t have. It doesn’t matter if they run it fast or run it slow, they’ve tried it every way. When the chips are down a furlong and a half out and Frankie says ‘go’ then he goes ‘boom’."

Nielsen says a second career as a stallion can wait for at least another 12 months for his flagbearer. He said: "He’s been well managed by a great trainer and will stay in training as long as he stays enthusiastic and sound. His target will be the Gold Cup with a run in the Sagaro or Yorkshire Cup as a prep beforehand."

Asked if he then might be given the opportunity to run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, he added: "You never know. You have to see what’s around and who is riding what and everything else. Last year it would have been a mistake to try and do something more with him. This year Enable was around, from the same yard, and Frankie was always going to ride her.

"I would not have wanted to take her on because it’s the same yard and, secondly, because she’s obviously very, very good. You wouldn’t have been going there confident you were going to beat her and Frankie would have ridden her.

"The old saying is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. A really wise man would probably just keep it simple and run in those staying races because at the moment he owns them. If you are going to deviate, maybe you’d go to Prix du Cadran or Royal Oak, but the temptation and the pressure, if he retains his form and wins a third Gold Cup, is going to be to see if he can drop back to a mile and half. It’s a long way ahead and we will have to see."


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