Frankie celebrates a little early but Stradivarius still makes history
He keeps on playing the same old tune and never with less than a bravura performance, as was wonderfully evident yet again when Flat racing's supreme marathon man Stradivarius made Goodwood Cup history.
This ancient contest has existed since 1812 but only once had a horse won it on three occasions. That was the mighty Double Trigger, whose own heroics were eclipsed by another white-faced wonder, now the first stayer ever to capture the £500,000 showpiece three times in a row.
Since the Qatar-backed prize became a Group 1 in 2017 it has only ever been won by Stradivarius, since the start of last year an unbeatable force. High-class opponents once again took him on but they were readily dismissed as Bjorn Nielsen's marvellous five-year-old continued his march towards claiming the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers' Million bonus for the second consecutive season.
Truly, it was easy. There were late gasps from the crowd but only because Frankie Dettori was easing and saluting some way in advance of a winning line that from certain angles can trick the eye.
It tricked quite a few, but John Gosden never seemed ruffled, not when watching the race silent and motionless from the top of the grandstand or when then turning around, placing his hand on another's arm and saying: "That's why you mustn't celebrate too early."
You must not because Stradivarius loves a scrap, but when the fun stops, so does he. Fortunately, Dettori now knows him rather well.
"I may have celebrated ten yards too soon but I knew I had it won," said Dettori.
"What a beautiful little horse. He has the heart of a lion and the people love him. He felt magnificent. With Stradivarius all you have to do is put him in the fight because he'll come out on top."
This was the eighth consecutive race in which he has done just that. It was also the tenth Group 1 plundered this season by the extraordinary Dettori, who on Saturday enjoyed one of the highlights of his racing life when winning an already iconic King George on Enable. On that occasion Ballydoyle provided the pace. This time their three runners were held up as Wells Farhh Go galloped almost loose up front, at one point 15 lengths clear, the loneliness of the long-distance runner in equine form.
At the other end of the race Dee Ex Bee and Cross Counter both held the lead, yet to no avail, for once Stradivarius struck the front it was all over.
"Frankie followed the right horse in Cross Counter," said Gosden. "He pounced at the right time and then overdid the waving at the crowd. One thing about this horse is when you say you've down enough, that's it, the handbrake goes on and you go over the handlebars."
Gosden then noted the similarities between Dettori's celebration and the acrobatics executed by Mickael Barzalona when lifting the Derby on Pour Moi. Asked if he would reprimand his rider, as Andre Fabre reportedly had that day, Gosden smiled and said: "I won't at all. We have a slightly different relationship."
Speaking about that relationship, Dettori said: "Everyone keeps saying I'm having a magnificent run but that's thanks to John and the team at Clarehaven because I'm riding their horses. It makes my life easy. I work for a great trainer who puts it on a plate for me. I just have to do my job."
"All credit to Stradivarius for matching Double Trigger," said Johnston. "He can thank Dee Ex Bee and Cross Counter for ensuring nobody can say he's done it in a weak division. These were good Goodwood Cups."
Similar sentiments were expressed by Charlie Appleby, who signalled Cross Counter will attempt to repeat his 2018 triumph in the Melbourne Cup. For Stradivarius, the next target is obvious, for to scoop the £1 million bonus he must lift York's Lonsdale Cup. Beyond that, Nielsen harbours a dream of tackling the Arc. That seems unlikely to be realised this year but as the proud owner-breeder is keen to keep racing Stradivarius in 2020 there remains plenty of time to dream that and other dreams.
"He's a gorgeous, unique horse, a clever little street fighter," said Gosden. "He was roaring like a bull before he left the yard at 5.15 this morning, telling everyone he was ready. Then he came down here and showed again he is a real pro."
That gorgeous, unique, street-fighting pro caused Goodwood's winner's enclosure to be packed deep with fans. The sight was not lost on Gosden, who finally, and in a perfect summation, observed: "We really need horses of this nature – and when you've got them you must treasure them."
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