Stradivarius looks to join the greats in the Gold Cup at Ascot today.
Stradivarius attempts to become the first back-to-back winner of the Gold Cup at Ascot since Yeats this afternoon. Like Leading Light and Estimate in recent years, Stradivarius has already won the Queens Vase at the Royal meeting. The son of Sea the Stars is undoubtedly the pre-eminent stayer of his generation. He is unbeaten since placing behind Order of St George at Ascot on Champions Day back in 2017.
Stradivarius had a perfect season in 2018 with five wins from as many starts, winning the Wetherby’s stayers’ million in the process. The task today at Ascot looks less straightforward than some previous runs for Stradivarius, the race has much depth. Aidan O’Brien saddles a pair of Classic winners against the favourite. Flag of Honour has been chasing Magical around inadequate trips this year so far in preparation for today's step up in distance. Flag of Honour looked a progressive stayer in the making when winning the Irish St Leger last year. His experience over shorter trips this year will help him cope with the potentially frantic early pace in the Gold Cup. Capri also runs for Ballydoyle, he won an Irish Derby in 2017 and beat Stradivarius in the St. Leger at Doncaster that year.
Godolphin add international form to the race and run Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter He has won in Meydan since his Flemington success. A similar preparation did stablemate Blue Point no harm earlier in the week. Dee Ex Bee is another horse enjoying the step up in trip this season and is two from two over two miles.
Willie Mullins sends globe trotter Thomas Hobson while Joseph O’ Brien’s runner Master of Reality won a Stayers’ Million qualifier, but is priced at 66/1. The competition for Stradivarius is immense and that’s without mentioning the French horse, Called to the Bar or Magic Circle who went off second favourite for the 2018 Melbourne Cup.
Estimate, Order of St George and Fame and Glory are members of a club Stradivarius and his connections will not want to join. They were all dethroned reigning champions. The soft ground will be a concern for John Gosden but Stradivarius dealt with the surface last October when winning the Long Distance Cup on Champions’ Day. Capri and Master of Reality are the only two in the race with proven truly soft ground form but both were beaten last time out.
The stage is set for Stradivarius. Yeats last defended his crown in 2009. No horse has done so since. While the field is deep, Stradivarius looks the one to stake his claim as the rightful heir to Yeats throne.