The owner of three-time Goodwood Cup winner Double Trigger says he hopes Stradivarius will make history and win the Al Shaqab-sponsored staying showpiece for a fourth time on Tuesday.
Ron Huggins has described Double Trigger as his “horse of a lifetime” and with good reason as the hugely popular chestnut, who died in February at the age of 29, took him around the world and carried his red and green colours to a dozen pattern-race victories.
Trigger, as he became affectionately known, was the first horse to win the Goodwood Cup three times (1995, 1997 and 1998) and was an emphatic winner of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 1995. He also scooped the Doncaster Cup three times plus twice landed the Henry II Stakes and Sagaro Stakes.
Trained throughout his six-season career by Mark Johnston, his haul of big-race triumphs also included the Italian St Leger plus he ran in the first Hong Kong Vase and a Melbourne Cup. He was retired at the age of 7, having won 14 of his 29 races, and went on to be a successful stallion.
Stradivarius has himself dominated the staying division in recent years and equalled Double Trigger’s haul of Qatar Goodwood Cup triumphs when winning the race for the third successive time last year. He will face a maximum of six rivals next week in the two-mile feature, which forms part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series.
Huggins said: “I enjoy watching Stradivarius and he must have a good chance of winning a fourth Goodwood Cup. I think he’s a great horse and wouldn’t begrudge him taking the record. His connections have done a fantastic job with him.
“He’s been ultra-consistent and I thought his Gold Cup win last time, when he won by ten lengths, was most exciting. Quite a few people have questioned what he has beaten but to see him accelerate clear like that was wonderful. For a stayer to have an official rating of 125 is quite something.
Double Trigger's amazing third Goodwood Cup triumph in 1998, after he had looked beaten, had racing fans in rapture
“We got the staying races going again [with Double Trigger] at a time when they had been in decline. Trigger had a fantastic following and it’s the same with Stradivarius. Nobody now questions the staying races – the public love them and it’s great that there’s been another horse who has captured the imagination. When Stradivarius first won the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million it created great excitement and theatre. It was really good for the sport.”
Double Trigger excelled everywhere but Huggins, 70, who is still involved in ownership and lives near Sherborne, in Somerset, believes that he reserved his best for the Sussex Downs.
He said: “When Goodwood comes around the memories always come flooding back. I think that was his favourite track and favourite distance. He won the Gold Cup and was second twice in it, too, but his front-running style at Ascot was always a bit tricky. When he got beaten it was by horses finishing late and he simply didn’t have time to respond.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that after his third Goodwood Cup victory. It was like being at Cheltenham going back to the paddock that day The whole of the stands just poured into the winner’s enclosure to greet him.
“He brought us so much enjoyment and was just brilliant for so many people. Every time he went to races there was a chance and that’s very unusual with a racehorse.
“I’ll never forget the first time he ran at Redcar having not had a gallop before. He was out the back but when Jason Weaver asked him [to quicken] he just took off and won by ten lengths in a record time. And that was just the start of the next six seasons. Looking back, you can’t quite believe how long it went on."
Huggins enjoyed watching his progeny race, including in his silks, right up until the last couple of years.
He said: “He had a fantastic life and was a playful character from his first day to his last. If you took your eyes off him he’d nip a scarf off you in an instant. There was no meanness in him, he just liked to muck about.”
Stradivarius has dominated the staying division in recent years
Would his pride and joy have beaten Stradivarius at Goodwood? “I’ve often wondered that myself. Who knows?” he said with a smile. “Stradivarius is rated higher and, as everybody knows, is always so hard to beat. But Trigger was never beaten there and would always give his all.”
A fourth win for Stradivarius, who has already won a record 12 staying races that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series umbrella, will be no formality. The opposition on Tuesday is set to include the Aidan O’Brien-trained Santiago, the winner of last month’s Irish Derby, who, as a three-year-old, will be in receipt of 15lb.
Johnston could be represented by Nayef Road, who chased home Stradivarius in the Gold Cup last month, while Who Dares Wins, winner of the Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal Meeting, is also engaged.
Eagles By Day, winner of the Group 3 John Smith’s Silver Cup at York last time, and Spanish Mission, runner-up in this year’s Coral Henry II Stakes, are also entered, along with Euchen Glen.
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