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
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