'The music has stopped' - legendary stayer Stradivarius is retired

Bjorn Nielsen and Stradivarius at Clarehaven Stables last month
Bjorn Nielsen and Stradivarius at Clarehaven Stables last monthCredit: Edward Whitaker

“The music has stopped for Stradivarius.”

With those words owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen called time on one of the most popular and enduring horses of the modern era on Monday. The eight-year-old has been slow to recover from the bruised foot he sustained last month, prompting connections to retire him to stud.

Stradivarius now joins the stallion roster at the National Stud in Newmarket after a stellar career that saw him win four Goodwood Cups, three Ascot Gold Cups, three Lonsdale Cups and the Doncaster Cup twice. The homebred chestnut won 20 of his 35 starts over seven seasons for racecourse earnings of £3,458,968.

“He has been trotting and cantering but it has taken longer to get over the bruised foot than we thought,” Nielsen said of his son of Sea The Stars. “We felt it would be unfair to ask him to come back again as a nine-year-old next season after his enforced time off.”

Stradivarius’s retirement will be much lamented by a racing public that has taken him to its collective heart. A feature of his exemplary career was his consistency at the highest level. His last start saw him succumb by a neck to Kyprios in his bid for a fifth Goodwood Cup in July. His duel with the eventual winner brought the crowd to its feet.

“It has been a fairytale from start to finish,” Nielsen reflected. “Until this setback he had never been medicated and had never missed an engagement through injury. He had great presence when he went to the races, which the crowds loved, and his overall soundness was rare to see in any horse – never mind one of his age. He is a tribute to John Gosden, who has trained him so brilliantly for so long.”

The standout performance within Stradivarius’s dominance of the staying division came when he won the 2020 Gold Cup at Ascot by ten lengths from Nayef Road. He posted that victory on soft ground even though connections always felt he was at his best on a fast surface.

Asked whether this represented a sad day for him personally, Nielsen said: “Yes and no. It has been a great thrill to watch him racing all these years but you always know they can’t go on forever. We contemplated stopping him at the end of last season but he showed us he wanted to go again, which was remarkable in itself.

“In the end we decided to keep him in training for three races and he ran in all three, winning the Yorkshire Cup first time out and then having no luck at Ascot and Goodwood. But each time he showed the fire was still there.

“He was consistently prolific, going round and round, winning all those staying races again and again. Even if I am fortunate to win the Derby or the Arc at some point in the future, I know I will never have another horse like him. He was hugely appreciated by the public. It was just a joy from start to finish.”

Stradivarius - Frankie Dettori wins from Count Octave - Oisin MurphyThe Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes (Group 2) (British Champions Series) York 24/8/2018©
'I know I will never have another horse like him'Credit: Mark Cranham (

For all his dominance, Stradivarius would have embellished his staying record had he not been targeted at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe two years ago. He missed the Lonsdale Cup and Doncaster Cup as a consequence, but his Longchamp bid foundered when the ground came up heavy.

Owning a horse of Stradivarius’s high profile was not always easy for Nielsen. The pressure also told on regular rider Frankie Dettori, who offered to stand down from Stradivarius after the combination endured a troubled passage through the Gold Cup in June. Nielsen was of a similar mindset; Andrea Atzeni replaced Dettori for the Goodwood Cup last month, which proved to be Stradivarius’s final racecourse appearance.

Stradivarius now strives to make an impact at stud against a backdrop of industry-wide reluctance to support staying stallions. Nielsen is adamant the horse has qualities beyond those of conventional stayers who tend to win races by their galloping prowess.

“He wasn’t at all one-dimensional,” Nielsen said. “His turn of foot was there for all to see, and I for one will be supporting him with mares next year. Who would not want to breed from a filly by Stradivarius, with all the attributes he showed?”

The music may have stopped but the memories will endure. Stradivarius was an iconic presence at the races and his short rivalry with Kyprios this season was among the highlights of the summer.

His haul of seven Group 1 races matched Yeats's record for a stayer. He also earned a £1 million bonus twice for winning the Stayers’ Million series of races in 2018-19. As a result of his supremacy, the bonus was discontinued thereafter.

Read this next:

Stradivarius: 'He's been one of the soundest horses who's ever lived'

Superstar stayer: three greatest hits from Stradivarius

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Julian MuscatFeatures writer
Published on 26 September 2022Last updated 20:36, 26 September 2022