THE TIMES, 29 July 2020
Stradivarius and Frankie Dettori dug themselves out of a hole to become the first ever four times winners of the Goodwood Cup. But they did more than that. They dug the day out of trouble too.
For however worthy and commendably correct racing’s adherence to the Covid protocols may be, there is something depressing about these studiously un-festive Festivals. Glorious Goodwood this was not, an impression only enhanced by racing professionals coming over as uncharacteristically and surely unnecessarily cowed by wearing face masks in the paddock and even in the race itself.
Such grumpy bile rose higher in the throat as the Goodwood Cup field swung off the top turn with Dettori and Stradivarius trussed up like a parcel on the rail. Nayef had set a slow pace up front with the Irish Derby winner Santiago holding second outside him, and as the tempo increased sharply, the others, and in particular Danny Tudhope and Eagles By Day, swept up to close Stradivarius’ attempt to play his famous tune.
300 yards to run and there was still no exit, but even off a slow pace horses tend to roll with the effort after two miles of galloping. Eagles By Day rolled now to give Dettori the gap he needed. It took another hundred yards for Stradivarius to fully gather himself. But then he did what he does better than any stayer of recent times. He finds an extra gear. Nayef and Santiago battled on, but Stradivarius powered past them and with it swept our cares away.
“It didn’t go as I expected,” said Dettori afterwards. “I thought that Nayef Road would set a good pace and Santiago would cut for home to try and make me work and see if the weight (Stradivarius was conceding 15 lbs to his younger rival) would take its toll. But they set it up for a sprint, sure it took a little while to get out, but they would never outsprint Stradivarius. I go from a superstar mare in Enable to this champion horse in three days. It’s the stuff of dreams.”
Both horses are trained by John Gosden whose mastery of his profession is matched by his ability to explain its challenges. “They are two fantastic horses with great minds on them,” he said. “It’s their mental strength as well as their ability that sets them apart and you have to be sensitive to their requirements. Anyone training animals will tell you that. Anyone can get a horse fit, but it’s psychologically tuning in to their minds to get them into the right mental zone that is the challenge.”
He then revealed that the pair are set for an end of season showdown in the Arc de Triomphe. Enable may be tilting for a record third success, but Stradivarius would be trying the hitherto impossible, coming down a full mile from the Ascot Gold Cup distance to triumph over the 2,400 metres of Europe’s greatest race.
The great Ardross came closest, failing by just a head to complete the double back in 1982, and just four years ago, Order Of St George ran third to stable companion Found. Stradivarius
is certainly not short of pace as he showed when chasing up Ghaiyyath over the Arc distance when not fully fit first time this season. He will now be rested and have his Arc trial in the Prix Foy at Longchamp in October. It will of course give Dettori a dilemma. His mother may have been a circus acrobat but riding two horses in an Arc is another matter.
Both Order Of St George and Found were trained by Aidan O’Brien and an hour before the Goodwood Cup, the Tipperary stable sent out Found’s first foal Battleground to follow up his impressive success at Royal Ascot, which may lead all the way to next year’s 2,000 Guineas. Battleground is already a big powerful athlete but the pleasure in watching him storm home was to recall Found’s amazing consistency and before that her own dam Red Evie’s extraordinary seven race winning sequence 14 summers ago. In flat racing, it’s not just the stars but the generations that give you the true fascination of the galaxy.
So, to this much more troubled season and an afternoon begun with trepidation rescued for the second time in four days by a horse and a small Italian genius of a jockey. This time the horse was not a long eared old mare named Enable but a chunky little chestnut stallion called Stradivarius who likes to holler his manhood of a morning. They should get married sometime. They probably will.