Stradivarius was “in the nightclub” before the Yorkshire Cup here on Friday according to his trainer John Gosden, but he pulled himself together in time to extend his winning streak to six and further strengthen his position as the favourite for next month’s Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, at a best price of 7-4 from 5-2 overnight.
Stradivarius rarely wins by more than a couple of lengths and was only three-quarters in front of Southern France here, but his reluctance to concede an inch in the closing stages has made him a firm favourite with punters and the payout is the same, regardless of the margin.
His latest success is a repeat of last season’s win in the Yorkshire Cup, making Stradivarius the first horse to record back-to-back successes in the race since the outstanding Ardross in 1982, and his 2019 campaign is now likely to be a carbon-copy of his four-year-old season.
Stradivarius followed up in the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup and then the Lonsdale Stakes at York’s Ebor meeting last year, adding a £1m bonus to the prize money for winning all four. Stradivarius is now just 4-1 with one bookmaker to bank the same bonus this year, while Cross Counter, last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, is the only other horse at a single-figure price in the Ascot Gold Cup betting at 11-2.
There was a brief moment of doubt for backers who had taken odds of 4-5 when Frankie Dettori started to shake the reigns on Stradivarius with some urgency three furlongs from home. Ryan Moore, on Aidan O’Brien’s Southern France, had already started a run that would carry him into a brief lead a furlong out, but Stradivarius responded well to take over soon afterwards and stayed on well to secure the 10th success of his 15-race career.
“He was a bit rusty and it was a bit of a sprint,” Dettori said. “It took me a furlong to get to Ryan but once I got upsides, there was only going to be one winner [because] he’s a fighter. He’s got me out of trouble so many times and he just put his head down and went.”
Gosden too paid tribute to the five-year-old’s battling qualities. “He’s a bit of a streetfighter,” the trainer said, “once he gets over being a bit of a stallion when you’re saddling him.
“He was roaring and shouting and slightly misbehaving [before the race] but then he goes out there and races and gets into a different zone. He was certainly in the nightclub when I was saddling him, but fortunately [when he was] on the running track, he was racing.
“He’s obviously the best stayer I’ve ever trained, but he’s not going to go and win by five and show off, that’s not quite his style. Three out, Frankie had to say, let’s get going here, otherwise he’d probably just happily float along with him.
“It’s like all of us, the older we get, the more we need galvanising.”
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