Stradivarius returned to action with a smooth success in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.
Now a seven-year-old, Bjorn Nielsen’s superstar stayer showed all his old enthusiasm remains intact.
Kept in training in an attempt to emulate Yeats by winning a fourth Gold Cup back at the Royal meeting in June, the Sea The Stars entire cemented his claims as still being very much the one to beat.
Ridden by his old ally Frankie Dettori, he was content to let Stag Horn and Nayef Road set an honest gallop.
With half a mile to run Dettori had been shuffled to the back of the six-runner field, which meant he had to go from the inside rail to right around the pack just after the turn into the straight.
As Stag Horn dropped away John and Thady Gosden could watch on contently as Dettori was still going sweetly with over a furlong to run on the 4-6 favourite.
His customary turn of foot was in evidence as he went two lengths clear and while he did begin to tire as Ocean Wind and Nayef Road closed in, Dettori did not need to get serious and just kept him up to his work to beat Ocean Wind – who ran well up in class – by a length.
As the chestnut had been well beaten in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and on Champions Day in his final two outings, the Gosdens will have been pleased with what they witnessed and the general reaction from the bookmakers was to cut Stradivarius to 6-4 to win a fourth Gold Cup.
Gosden senior said: “He (Nielsen) is incredibly sporting. To have a horse like this who has won three Gold Cups and four Goodwood Cups and a number of other races has been a dream come true. The old horse has got his enthusiasm still, as you can see. The last two races were bottomless ground and bottomless ground and he didn’t like either of them.
“Frankie has been and sat on him since he has got out of quarantine twice. I’ve been thrilled with him all winter, he’s happy with him. All the people who work around the horse – we’ve all been very pleased with him. The horse has been his normal self.
“He ran a great race with poor old Anthony Van Dyck in the Prix Foy on decent ground. Then it was like a bicycle velodrome race in the Arc, when they trotted then sprinted in heavy ground and he didn’t like it and then the ground here was close to unraceable (on Champions Day), so I ruled those two races out.
“So I had every confidence that the enthusiasm was there. Frankie was over the moon with him – he travelled well and he thought ‘Oh, I’d better not let them get too much rope on me, and the next thing I gave him a click and he’s taken four lengths out of them in half a furlong and I hit the front too soon,’ so that’s a good sign.
“He is comfortable over this trip (two miles). He ran third to Ghaiyyath in a track-record time in the Jockey Club Stakes first time out last year in order to give him a prep. He was in the mix until the last furlong, but it was a track record and he was probably four and a half lengths off the track record over a mile and a half on fast ground."
All roads now point towards the Gold Cup, without another run, according to Gosden.
He said: "He’s fine. He’s got the speed, but obviously he likes the Gold Cup distance, and I think we’ll come straight back here for the Gold Cup – I don’t see the point in running him anywhere else in between.
“His best surface is good ground like most horses. The summer soft, which we had last year, he can deal with. But when you get autumn, bottomless ground, no – that is not his scene. He has too good an action for that.”
A delighted Dettori said: “These horses are what you get up for. He’s been in great form at home and he has the same old enthusiasm he has always had. I wanted to be close and didn’t want them to get away from me, but he has got a turn of foot and when I asked him to quicken, he got there too soon. He is an incredible horse.
“Bjorn was a little worried that he may not have the enthusiasm, but he has always had that and he’s shown me no signs that he has lost that. John has been very happy with him all winter and he has the ability to win over shorter trips than the Gold Cup.
"Yeats won four Gold Cup and people said that would never be done again, but for us, the dream is still alive!”
Rohaan sprouted wings under Ryan Moore to win the Qipco British Champions Series horseracinghof.com Pavilion Stakes – in which the odds-on favourite Supremacy finished last.
Outpaced at halfway, Rohaan picked his way through the field and showed he is far from an all-weather specialist following his fruitful winter.
For Clive Cox and Supremacy, though, it is back to the drawing board.
Last season’s Middle Park winner was strongly fancied to put himself among the favourites for the Commonwealth Cup – for which this race is a designated trial – but giving away a 4lb penalty, Supremacy looked beaten soon after halfway as Adam Kirby never looked happy.
Saint Lawrence was up there forcing the pace throughout and was still travelling well entering the final furlong.
He had all the rest under pressure. But David Evans’ Rohaan, sent off at 22-1, came with a withering run to win going away by a length and a quarter. Spycatcher was back in third.
Moore said: "Rohaan has a lovely turn of foot. Dave (Evans) has done some great work with him. I think a level track helps him, and he's been in great form all year and he has a super attitude. The race fell right for him, and I think he will get seven furlongs.
"That was the third time I have ridden him, and he is a very honest horse who has a good turn of foot. The strongly-run race suited him, and he gets this six furlongs well. I didn't think we'd beat an in-form Supremacy. I think he is a good horse - but for whatever reason, he wasn't running his race at halfway.
"Rohaan in the Commonwealth Cup would not be crazy on today's performance. But the rain just helped on the good ground. It helped take the sting out of the ground.''
Trainer Cox could offer no excuses for the favourite's run, and said: "I'm going to check on Supremacy. Nothing is obvious at all. This is easier ground than we have run on before with this rain, but I'm searching for excuses myself.
"I'm just a bit surprised, because he was first beat. I'll be disappointed if something doesn't show, but I'm not aware of it right now."We've teamed up with the Flat experts at Timeform to bring you a FREE copy of their latest book - 50 Flat Horses to Follow throughout the 2021 season. Click here to claim yours for FREE!
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