Stradi­var­ius on brink of writ­ing Glo­ri­ous his­tory

Stayer to kick off meet­ing by land­ing fourth Good­wood Cup Satur­day card to be at­tended by 5,000 mem­bers with guests

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - RAC­ING COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Mar­cus Army­tage

King Ed­ward VII fa­mously de­scribed Glo­ri­ous Good­wood as a “gar­den party with rac­ing tacked on”. Alas, in 2020, this high­light of the “sea­son” and one of Sus­sex’s great an­nual so­cial oc­ca­sions, can be summed up slightly more suc­cinctly; just rac­ing.

The sport is get­ting used to rac­ing be­hind closed doors now. But how­ever good the sport on the field of play, it re­mains a bit like flat Cham­pagne – lack­ing the sparkle that only a big crowd can bring to an oc­ca­sion.

So, even if Stradi­var­ius, the three-time As­cot Gold Cup win­ner, be­comes the first horse to win for the fourth time the Good­wood Cup – a race which had al­ready been in ex­is­tence for three years by the time of the Bat­tle of Water­loo in 1815 – there will be about 100 peo­ple present to wit­ness the feat live.

In that re­spect, one of the high­lights of this week will, there­fore, be the pres­ence of 5,000 Good­wood mem­bers and their guests on Satur­day. It should be a step in the right di­rec­tion for the re­turn of crowds not just to rac­ing but to all sports.

Let us hope the mem­ber guinea pigs have a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence than race­horse own­ers. They are cur­rently find­ing that be­ing penned away from their train­ers and jock­eys is not what they signed up for.

They seem to be ap­ply­ing the adage “once bit­ten, twice shy” to their cur­rent race-go­ing pol­icy; no ex­pe­ri­ence, it seems, is in­fin­itely su­pe­rior to a mod­er­ate ex­pe­ri­ence, and they are find­ing it bet­ter on ITV. Un­til Satur­day, there may not be many to do the cheer­ing but, nev­er­the­less, there should be a lot to cheer about.

To­mor­row’s Sus­sex Stakes has the look of the race of the sea­son so far. Siskin, the Ir­ish Guineas win­ner, and Kameko, the Guineas win­ner, star in a clash of the gen­er­a­tions against the four-year-olds Cir­cus Max­imus, the Queen Anne win­ner, and the im­prov­ing Mo­haather.

The Nas­sau Stakes on Thurs­day is the best fil­lies’ race of the sea­son, while the blink-and-you-miss-him Bat­taash aims for a fourth King Ge­orge Stakes on Fri­day. Th­ese key group con­tests are ably sup­ported by high-class ju­ve­nile races and tricky hand­i­caps where luck can play such a part.

To­day, how­ever, the un­doubted star is Stradi­var­ius, who ran away with his third As­cot Gold Cup last month when he beat Nayef Road by 10 lengths. His vast ex­pe­ri­ence at this level should be enough to see off young pre­tender San­ti­ago, even though he has to give Ai­dan O’Brien’s three-year-old, the

Queen’s Vase and Ir­ish Derby win­ner, 15lb. Weight, they say, stops trains, and Stradi­var­ius is not much big­ger than a pony but he has be­come one of the great stay­ers and even the Ir­ish Derby win­ner may strug­gle to match his turn of foot at the end of two miles.

“At As­cot, he han­dled soft ground well,” trainer John Gos­den ex­plained. “It sur­prised me be­cause he has quite small feet and he has a quick, easy ac­tion. Did the race have its nor­mal depth? Pos­si­bly not. But he showed great style.

“When you put the lead in the sad­dle and you’re go­ing two miles with it, it’s a bun­dle of weight. We got 13lb from Big Orange when Stradi­var­ius won his first Good­wood Cup, so we ben­e­fited that year – now he has got to give 15lb away, the boot is on the other foot.

“I per­son­ally think it’s the great­est chal­lenge prob­a­bly in his life.”

Mark John­ston is of­ten the man to fol­low through this meet­ing. How­ever, it is hard to see his Nayef Road, run­ner-up in the Gold Cup, re­vers­ing that form, even back down in trip, though he should win a lesser share of the prize money.

It is an­other York­shire trainer, John Quinn, who can win the Len­nox Stakes with Safe Voy­age, who was suc­cess­ful at Ep­som on Derby day de­spite not han­dling the track. His big­gest dan­ger may be Duke of Hazzard, who has won at the meet­ing for the past two sea­sons.

The Veuve Clic­quot Vin­tage Stakes has a tremen­dous strike rate for pro­duc­ing good horses. Last year, it was won by Pi­natubo but its hon­ours board in­cludes Shamardal, Sir Percy, Olympic Glory, Toor­more, High­land Reel and Galileo Gold. Bat­tle­ground, from Ire­land, will be a warm or­der on the back of win­ning As­cot’s Che­sham Stakes.

But Youth Spirit, a win­ner over six fur­longs at New­mar­ket last time, can im­prove again. I think the trainer had this race in mind be­fore he won that maiden, so he can keep the An­drew Bald­ing band­wagon rolling.

Up and run­ning: Stradi­var­ius, rid­den by An­drea Atzeni, wins his first Good­wood Cup in 2017

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