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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Gosden to campaign Stradivarius with one eye firmly on new £1m bonus

Stradivarius (Andrea Atzeni, left) beats Big Orange (Frankie Dettori) in the Qatar Goodwood Cup
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John Gosden has given his full backing to the new WH Stayers' Million concept and will campaign last year's Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius with one eye firmly on the prize.

The £1 million bonus, announced by insurers Weatherbys Hamilton on Wednesday, will be awarded to the connections of any horse who having won the Longines Sagaro Stakes, Boodles Ormonde Stakes, Yorkshire Cup or Matchbook Henry II Stakes goes on to win the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, Qatar Goodwood Cup and Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup at York.

It is a tall order, but Gosden has joined Big Orange's trainer Michael Bell and others in the industry in giving the bonus a firm thumbs-up.

John Gosden: "For too long we've been ignoring staying horses"

Gosden said: "It's a very timely and important initiative. For too long we've been ignoring the staying horses, and from the point of view of the racing and breeding industry it is now being addressed and this is another way of highlighting it.

"There's no doubt that when you go to Ascot people really enjoy the staying races – and not just the Gold Cup. Racegoers probably enjoy them more than sprints but we've been rather failing these horses as they're not regarded as being commercial enough."

He added: "We'll do everything we can to support it and therefore will be looking at one of those prep races for Stradivarius – whether it's the Yorkshire Cup or Ormonde we'll see. It will be tough pulling it off but it's an exciting challenge."

Stradivarius won Royal Ascot's Queen's Vase before beating Big Orange at Goodwood, and then followed up with close thirds in the St Leger and British Champions Long Distance Cup. While he is 40-1 with Coral and 50-1 with Ladbrokes to land the bonus, he is clearly one of the likelier candidates.

Gosden had good news of the four-year-old and said: "He's been here all winter and we couldn't be more pleased with him. He's in great order and did his first canter this morning. He's grown and filled out markedly."

No horse has won the three key races as well as one of the preps since the Lonsdale Stakes, introduced in 1980 and now Group 2, was first awarded Group status.

However, 12 horses have won two of the main races and, of those, four had won one of the prep races.

Those who won the Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup – and would presumably have been given the chance of winning the Lonsdale Cup if the bonus had been in existence – include Le Moss (1979 and 1980), Ardross (1981), Gildoran (1984), Sadeem (1988), Double Trigger (1995) and Yeats (2006 and 2008).

Persian Punch was beaten only a head by Royal Rebel in the 2001 Gold Cup before going on to win the Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup. He had also run in the Henry II Stakes but finished only third.

The size of the task is highlighted by Coral and Ladbrokes both offering 20-1 any horse achieving it this year, but Coral spokesman David Stevens underlined Gosden's point regarding the popularity of staying races when he said: "The stayers on the Flat have a strong following among punters, highlighted by the Gold Cup topping the list of Royal Ascot races by turnover every year.

"Hopefully this £1 million bonus will shine a further spotlight on the division. Its's not an impossible task, given the quality of stamina-laden stars plying their trade at present."

To win the £1 million Weatherbys Hamilton bonus

Coral: 20 any horse, 33 Big Orange, Order Of St George, 40 Stradivarius, 50 Capri.

Ladbrokes: 20 any horse, 33 Big Orange, Order Of St George, 40 Capri, 50 Stradivarius.

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We'll do everything we can to support it. It's an exciting challenge
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