STAR STAYER Stradivarius starts on the road to a possible fourth successive Ascot Gold Cup when he makes his seasonal debut in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at the Berkshire course today.
John Gosden, who trains the horse with his son Thady, reports Stradivarius to be in good form but expects him to come on a lot for this comeback outing under regular rider Frankie Dettori.
Bjorn Nielsen’s seven-year-old has to recover from disappointing showings in his last two starts of 2020, although both were run on unsuitable ground.
Stradivarius had been his brilliant self before then, winning a third Gold Cup by 10 lengths and picking up a fourth Goodwood Cup in a row.
“He’s ready for a return. Obviously the last two races were both run in exceptionally heavy ground. He wasn’t in love with it. There was no pace in the Arc, then they sprinted,” said Gosden.
“But he seems happy in himself and is his usually vociferous self. He likes Ascot, obviously, and I feel the trip is right to start him off at two miles. He’s a bigger, heavier horse this year so he may well need his first race.
“We’ll see how he runs. If he needs another race, there’s the Yorkshire Cup – but we’ll see. He’s bigger, he’s a seven-year-old and he’s weighing heavier – so to that extent he may need two races before the Gold Cup. We don’t know.”
Nayef Road won this race last year when it was run at Newcastle, but he then had to play second fiddle to Stradivarius at both Royal Ascot and Goodwood.
The Mark Johnston-trained runner is having his first race since finishing third in the Lonsdale Cup at York in August.
“If Stradivarius comes back in the same form as last year then he’ll be extremely difficult to beat,” said the Middleham handler.
“We’ve run some very good horses against Stradivarius and come second. That said, we’ve got a much stronger team this year and it’s going to be very interesting to see.
“I’d say to beat Subjectivist and Sir Ron Priestley (this season), Stradivarius is going to have to be absolutely at his best. So, if nothing else we’re going to see if that’s the case.
“Nayef Road is fine. He did have a setback at the end of last season but he seems to have got over it well, and he’s ready to run.”
As for Subjectivist, who was successful in the Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night last month, he is likely to bypass the Yorkshire Cup and head for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. “He’ll probably go straight for the Gold Cup,” said Johnston.
Meanwhile Clan Des Obeaux, victorious in this month’s Grade One Betway Bowl at the Randox Grand National meeting, lines up in tonight’s Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup in Ireland.
Co-owned by, amongst others, Sir Alex Ferguson, the injured Harry Cobden is replaced in the saddle by Sam Twiston-Davies who partnered the horse to his 2019 King George Chase win.
“He’s at a nice age as a nine-year-old. Physically and mentally he looks the complete package, and he should be right near his peak now,” said Twiston-Davies.
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