TRAINER John Gosden says superstar stayer Stradivarius will race for a £1m bonus at York this month after a hard-fought success in the Goodwood Cup.
The jackpot will be paid out to owner Bjorn Nielsen if the four-year-old adds the Lonsdale Cup to earlier successes in the Yorkshire Cup and Ascot Gold Cup.
The WH Stayers’ Million is a scheme created by racing authorities to encourage owners to keep staying racehorses in training and boost their breeding prospects.
In a dramatic race at Goodwood which saw Call To Mind, owned by the Queen, suffer a career-ending injury, Stradivarius dug deep to overhaul old rival Torcedor at the end of this two-mile race.
Replacing the suspended Frankie Dettori, it was the first time jockey Andrea Atzeni had ridden Stradivarius since winning last year’s Goodwood Cup.
Ironically, both Dettori and Atzeni hail from Italy where Antonio Stradivari crafted the acclaimed musical instruments that this champion racehorse is named after.
“He’s got a lot of heart, and he was very determined to go and win his race,” said Gosden, who confirmed that all roads lead to York on August 24.
“That (Lonsdale Cup) would be the obvious choice, I’m sure they’ve got it very well insured!
“We’ll have to do everything we can to try to win it.
“We’ll see how the horse is, there’s three and a bit weeks, which should hopefully be fine, and he was conscious of not giving him a hard race in the last part, he was already thinking ahead.
“Let’s see if we can get there, with horses you’ve always got to be in top order, that’s the key point. He’s the most charming horse to be around. He’s a lovely ride.
“He (Stradivarius) is a beautifully-balanced horse, he’s not a big horse, he’s neat. To that extent he’s improved a lot from three to four.”
This was echoed by the aforementioned Atzeni who observed: “He’s a different horse compared to last year. I remember when I won on him last year he was quite narrow, but he’s done a tremendous job as a four-year-old.
“I’m in a very lucky position to be here. Unfortunately Frankie is suspended, but he’s been very helpful and these big days are what it’s all about. He could be even better as a five-year-old, but how much better can he get? He’s done nothing wrong so far and he’s definitely the best stayer around.”
Jessica Harrington, meanwhile, was proud of Torcedor’s performance in defeat and is not ruling out a third straight clash with Stradivarius on the Knavesmire.
She said: “I’m delighted. He has really improved all year. We’ve only got half-a-length to make up now. We might go to York. He really does battle and he deserves to get a Group One somewhere along the line. We are very near now.”
Elsewhere at Goodwood, a Yorkshire racing syndicate harbours Classic dreams after Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision maintained his unbeaten record with a thoroughly impressive display in the Qatar Vintage Stakes.
The two-year-old colt runs in the colours of Kingsley Park 10 whose 19 members each invested £7,000 to become the owners of three horses this year at Johnston’s Middleham stables.
All three have won, but it is Dark Vision which is being touted as a possible 2000 Guineas contender after backing up previous victories at Yarmouth and York with this eyecatching Group Two success in the hands of Silvestre de Sousa.
It looked as though the gamble had gone badly awry rounding the home turn, with Dark Vision being niggled along by the champion jockey. However, once switched wide into clear daylight, Johnston’s challenger finished fastest of all to beat Dunkerron by a length and three-quarters.
The meticulously detailed Johnston, who is on the brink of becoming Britain’s winning-most trainer, said: “When he missed the break today I thought it was all over. I was just thinking that I have got to go home and teach this horse to come out of the stalls, and, at that stage, if he had come fourth, I would have said I had a really nice horse on my hands.
“Keeping the owners’ feet on the ground is the difficult thing at the moment. I haven’t thought ahead because we wanted to take little steps, but they can’t win races standing in their stable.”
Reluctant to talk about future plans, he did concede, however, that the syndicate’s biggest decision could be whether to keep Dark Vision – or cash in – if they receive eyewatering six-figure offers from racing’s elite owners keen to purchase the colt’s future potential on the racetrack and as a stallion.