AN ecstatic Frankie Dettori hailed the fighting qualities of Stradivarius after the champion stayer made a winning comeback in the Yorkshire Cup – the Dante festival’s final day feature.
The charismatic Italian-born rider treated York racegoers to a trademark flying dismount after the Bjorn Nielsen-owned five-year-old won back-to-back renewals of this historic race.
Though Stradivarius was not at his very best, the win was the perfect prep for next month’s Ascot Gold Cup. Winner of a £1m bonus last year, Stradivarius could win the seven-figure sum again if he remains unbeaten in this division.
A day after Dettori, and trainer John Gosden, suffered a shock reverse in the Dante Stakes when champion juvenile Too Darn Hot was outfought and outridden by the Oisin Murphy-inspired Telecaster, Stradivarius did come under pressure early in the home straight.
Aidan O’Brien’s Irish challenger Southern France had the benefit of a run already this season and did his best to make a race of it, but with the rail to help, Dettori’s mount got on top close to home and passed the post a comfortable three-quarters of a length to the good.
Mildenberger, trained at Middleham by Mark Johnston, fared best of the rest in third, with Dubai Gold Cup runner-up Ispolini a shade disappointing in fourth.
He’s a fighter and he’s got me out of trouble so many times. He just put his head down and went ... there were fitter horses in front, but I’ve got Stradivarius – he’s a joy to have around.Frankie Dettori
Dettori said: “It was brilliant. He was a bit rusty. There wasn’t much of a pace, it was more of a sprint. It took me a while to get to Ryan (Moore, on Southern France), but once we got upsides there was only one winner.
“He’s a fighter and he’s got me out of trouble so many times. He just put his head down and went. It started a good pace and slackened in the middle of the race and turned into a three-and-a-half-furlong sprint. There were fitter horses in front, but I’ve got Stradivarius – he’s a joy to have around.
“He’s going to be a big name in the staying division again. He’s not flash, but you know you’re going to win a fight with him.”
A delighted Gosden enthused: “Obviously this was a prep for the Gold Cup and he hadn’t been trained hard for this. The Gold Cup is two-and-a-half miles, a different ball game.
“It was a reasonable early pace, then they slowed it right down. That’s probably not ideal for him, but I liked the way he showed a bit of grit in the end. Frankie said he was a bit ring rusty. He’s not the polished article yet. We hope to have that at Royal Ascot.
“I wasn’t concerned, as he’s a street fighter once he got over being a stallion in the saddling boxes, roaring and shouting, slightly misbehaving. Then he goes out there and races and gets into a different zone.
“He was in the nightclub when I was saddling him and fortunately on the running track when he was racing.
“The key is not to over-train him. He’s a very proud horse. He does enough in his work without being generous. He was gritty there. Aidan’s horse put it up to him, but he said, ‘I’m going to finish in front of you’.”
There was a notable win for Clifford Lee, one of the riders at Leyburn trainer Karl Burke’s stables, when Wedding Date won the five furlong sprint handicap.
Earlier, Good Vibes gave positive signs for a crack at the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot when showing a decisive turn of foot to win the opener for jockey Harry Bentley and trainer David Evans.
“She was much more straightforward than she was at Salisbury,” said Bentley.
“They went a really good gallop and it probably helped her to settle. She’s a forward-moving filly and was free on the way to post.
“She’s just got so much natural speed. We went a really strong gallop there. She galloped through the line well, so a stiff five like Ascot will suit her.”
And Magnetic Charm is set for the Royal meeting after carrying the Queen’s colours to victory for trainer William Haggas and jockey James Doyle in the Fillies’ Stakes.
Haggas’s wife and assistant, Maureen, said: “That was brilliant. She likes fast ground and last year every time she went racing it rained.
“The Queen doesn’t go racing very often, so the more runners she can have while she’s there (Ascot) and to run horses there with a chance is great.”