Stradivarius gained a 20th career success and made it a perfect six wins from six races at York with victory in the Paddy Power Yorkshire Cup under Frankie Dettori.
It was a record-breaking performance from Bjorn Nielsen’s eight-year-old, who moved sweetly to the front before finding enough in the end to land a record 18th European Group-race victory, one more than Cirrus Des Aigles.
The John and Thady Gosden-trained entire sat fourth early on behind the pace-setting Thunderous and Franny Norton.
When the pace quickened, Stradivarius briefly hit a flat spot but was soon back on the bridle and Dettori eased him through a gap between the leader and Max Vega with three furlongs to run.
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He hit top stride with a quarter of a mile left to travel, but the 6-4 favourite idled once hitting the front as he drifted to the stands rail and had to dig deep as Thunderous fought back.
Yet he had a length to spare at the line from the gallant 17-2 runner-up and will now head to Royal Ascot in a bid to land a fourth Gold Cup, for which he was cut to 3-1 by Betfair and Coral.
The son of Sea The Stars returned to a huge reception from the Knavesmire crowd, after what was a third Yorkshire Cup win.
We've done everything to please him, Gosden tells Lydia Hislop
Gosden senior said: "He hit a little but of a flat spot and the next thing you know, he got Frankie there too soon. It was tremendous, he's a great one for the crowds, isn't he? Someone asked me what it was like and I said 'it's like Desert Orchid'.
"It's great to be six from six on the Knavesmire and be the leading Group-winning horse of all time in Europe, that takes some doing
"As long as the ground doesn't go soft or heavy then we hope to go on to Ascot which has always been the plan - one run, then Ascot. We always said here, Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood. That, hopefully, is our season, we'll see.
Dettori was emotional after the victory
"He's a real character and it's lovely to win that and give weight, he gave 6lb to the good filly (Search For A Song) and 3lb to everything else. Let's hope we can get to Ascot and the ground's not too deep, I think if he had this ground he'd take a lot of beating."
He added: "He's an eight-year-old entire, if he was an eight-year-old gelding it would be a different ball game. 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.
"He was a bundle of fun to saddle, on his hind legs, every time he saw a filly he started showing off but he came over here and he was a professional as ever."
🗣 "The Gold Cup is now the focus."— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 13, 2022
🎻 Stradivarius has been the horse of a lifetime for Bjorn Nielsen - he reflects on a winning return for his eight-year-old who has carried the black & yellow with distinction throughout his career 💛🖤 pic.twitter.com/km2I3GALMq
Dettori, who was in flying dismount form, said: "John and Thady have got to take all the credit really. They 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.
"I thought we had him fit, but until you try you don't know because he looks after himself.
He looked the same as he usually does, travelled with zest and 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 Ascot for one more roll of the dice. Let's hope the ground stays dry."
Owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen is acutely aware he will never have another horse like Stradivarius.
The eight-year-old’s status as one of the sport’s greatest stayers has long since been assured, having dominated the division for much of his career.
The undoubted Cup king of the last decade with three Gold Cups, four Goodwood Cups, three Lonsdale Cups and a couple of Doncaster Cups already in the satchel, Stradivarius was the 6-4 favourite to add to his previous Yorkshire Cup wins in 2018 and 2019 and stretch his unbeaten record on the Knavesmire to six.
This was no cakewalk for John and Thady Gosden’s mighty entire, who was beaten by the Alan King-trained Trueshan on his final two starts of last season and this time faced a race-fit dual Irish St Leger heroine in Search For A Song.
But much like his partner Frankie Dettori, the son of Sea The Stars once again proved age is but a number – travelling with all his trademark zest for much of the one-and-three-quarter-mile journey and keeping enough up his sleeve for the finish to beat the game Thunderous by a length.
After being paraded in front of the stands, Stradivarius returned to the winner’s enclosure with the Rocky theme tune being thumped out across the racecourse. A fitting tribute to a true a champion.
“It’s a relief really because he is eight and you never know what’s going to turn up,” said Nielsen.
“No matter what they say at home, and they say he’s still enthusiastic and everything else, you never really know until they get here.
⌚ Look at that 11-second burst in the 11th furlong by Stradivarius on his way to winning a third @paddypower Yorkshire Cup at @yorkracecourse. 😮— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 13, 2022
At 8, he remains a stayer with potent speed for when it matters most. 🐎💨 #sectionals pic.twitter.com/2Oy3DxoKh4
“Even through the race, when he comes off the bridle you’re thinking ‘is it going to be there or is it not?’. You know he’s got it, but does he still want to do it?
“Hats off to John and Thady and the staff. To have this horse still going at eight years old is incredible.
“They can’t train him the way did last year and the way before, they’ve had to change things up because he’s like all of us – he wants to sit back and have an easier life!”
Nielsen has seen plenty of other smart horses carry his black and yellow colours to big-race success over the years, including a Classic winner in 2011 St Leger hero Masked Marvel.
But none can match the staggering achievements of Stradivarius and he admits his intended retirement later this year will leave a huge hole in his racing life.
He added: “The trouble with him is he’s spoilt me because going racing is going to be pretty much a disappointment forever really!
“A lot of people have had good horses in the past and they don’t stop, they keep going and look for the next big one, but you’ll never find one like that – there’s just no way.”
Stradivarius is not done just yet though, with another bid to join the legendary Yeats with four Gold Cup wins at the Royal meeting next on his agenda before a potential swansong at Goodwood.
Nielsen is praying for a sound surface in Berkshire next month to give his pride and joy the best possible chance of potentially turning the tables on old foe Trueshan.
He said: “We’ll take it one race at a time. We’ll see how he comes out of this, but the plan has really always been the Ascot Gold Cup and this was really a prep run for that.
“Hopefully we get our ground there. We’ve been lucky here at York as six out of six times we’ve had good to firm ground, whereas at Ascot two out of four Gold Cups have been on soft.
“He’s can quicken and has that turn of foot and he wants good ground to show it. The only race he’s ever missed in his entire life was the Goodwood Cup last year as they had 60 millimetres of rain the night before and it was heavy and we thought it wasn’t fair on him.
“Other than that he’s never missed an engagement in seven years and if we could just get good ground at Ascot that would be fine. I’d love to see Trueshan turn up and run against us on good ground as while he’s a very good horse, we’ve always had to face him on very soft ground.”
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