John Gosden tuning up Stradivarius for crack at Stayers' Million series
John Gosden has confirmed his commitment to the new WH Stayers' Million with last year's Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius but is no closer to identifying the four-year-old's first option.
Gosden is a big fan of staying races, and Stradivarius is arguably as likely as any horse to land the bonus in its first year, since Order Of St George seems more likely to have his prep race for the Gold Cup in Ireland.
He said: "This is an exciting concept and we'll have a go at it. Stradivarius's owner Mr Nielsen is bang up for it, and you know these horses could still go for the Melbourne Cup if they're fresh enough after York. I haven't made my mind up where he'll start, but I know I'm going to get a lot of advice on it. It might be Chester, it might be York, or it could well be the Sagaro. We have to dump the penalty [for his Group 1 win] and then we'll be away.
"People really lock into these staying races and we have to open our minds and promote stayers in every way possible or else we'll end up with pretty one-dimensional and boring racing."
David Elsworth is another trainer with an affinity to stayers, and he enjoyed great success with people's favourite Persian Punch over long distances. He is looking forward to having a crack at the Weatherbys Hamilton-sponsored bonus with Doncaster Cup winner Desert Skyline, who surprised him to such an extent last year that he had to be supplemented for the Goodwood Cup, in which he finished third.
Elsworth has a pragmatic approach to picking the four-year-old's starting point but is a little wary of Ascot, having been "flattened" there twice last year.
He said: "We'll see how it unfolds, but if we get the right signals and the weather is good we'll take the first one available, because the second bus might break down."
While it's conceivable the bonus will be won in its first year, the different interests attending the launch on Monday, including breeders such as Kirsten Rausing and the sponsors themselves, accept the series could be "a slow burner" and that the benefits to the staying population might not be seen for five or ten years.
Coolmore's UK representative Kevin Buckley could not confirm an Aidan O'Brien-trained challenger for 2018 but underlined that the trainer and his backers are hugely in favour of such initiatives.
Buckley said: "Order of St George has won the last two renewals of the Saval Beg, so that would seem to me an obvious place to start again. However, that's not written in stone and out of the first four races in the series, the Ormonde Stakes is a race in which we've had a number if runners and won it three times, so if we have a horse who fits the profile we do like going to Chester.
"Will we have a horse for the series this year, perhaps not, but we might well next year or the year after because it's very important for the breed and also from the racegoers' experience. It's something we'll be very much behind when we have a specific horse for it."
How the series works
The WH Stayers Million is a £1m bonus paid to a winner of any of four designated prep races who goes on to land the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Qatar Goodwood Cup, and the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup at York.
Longines Sagaro Stakes, Group 3, 2m, Ascot, May 2
Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes, Group 3, 1m5f, Chester, May 10
Yorkshire Cup, Group 2, 1m6f, York, May 18
Matchbook Henry II Stakes, Group 3, 2m, Sandown May 24
Gold Cup, Group 1, 2m4f, Ascot June 21
Qatar Goodwood Cup, Group 1, 2m, Goodwood, July 31
Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup, Group 2, 2m, York, August 24
To win the £1 million Weatherbys Hamilton bonus
Coral: 20 any horse, 33 Big Orange, Order Of St George, Stradivarius, 50 Capri.
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