Tenacious Stradivarius toughs it out to land million-pound jackpot
Even the bad times are good – The Tremeloes may have been bigger on guitars, keyboards and drums than vintage violins but their 1967 hit summed up Stradivarius' day perfectly.
By his own high standards, this was not a good time for the top-class stayer named after the family of 17th and 18th century fiddle-makers, whose instruments fetch huge sums at auction.
Yet, even if he wasn't at his best and victory in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup at York was rather more scrambled than might have been expected for a 4-11 favourite, a win is a win – and that meant a £1million bonus.
Bjorn Nielsen's homebred colt was never quite travelling with the zest he had shown in winning the Yorkshire Cup, Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup to put him on the breeze of a seven-figure payout.
Yet Frankie Dettori is not a man to be denied and he forced the four-year-old past Count Octave approaching the final furlong for a length-and-a-half success.
"All his guts and talent got him through but he didn't give me the same feel as at Ascot," said the rider. "He was lethargic today. He's run in every championship race and they take their toll, two/two and a half miles, even if they look like they win easily, they still have to run the distance.
"Today he wasn't carrying me as well as he has in the past. I had to get really serious in the last two and a half furlongs – class and courage got him through. It wasn't his best performance but, hey, we're millionaires!"
"He has tremendous determination and a lot of class," added trainer John Gosden, who admitted the staying star was not in top form.
"I wouldn't say he was at his sparkling best but the pace was key. We're better with a stronger pace but we're not going to complain because he won."
Nielsen has been in racing long enough to know things don't always go to plan, turning up fit enough to sparkle on four given days in the same season is asking plenty of any horse – and his trainer.
He said: "Winning one of these races is huge but to do it four times and get him up every time, you need not just a great trainer but the luck as well."
If Weatherbys Hamilton offers the bonus again in 2019, aspirants are likely to have Stradivarius to deal with once again, as Nielsen said: "I think it's the obvious thing to keep him to those races.
"I've got no inclination to take him to Australia, nor travel him – you put some wear and tear on the wheels.
"He's only young for a stayer and if he stays sound he can go round the clock next year, and the year after. The odds are a younger horse is going to have to come up from somewhere to beat him if he stays sound and his mind is still good."
The Melbourne Cup, however, beckons for runner-up Count Octave, and trainer Andrew Balding's wife Anna Lisa said: "You couldn't have asked more from him. Hopefully that means we might get his rating up and get him to Australia.
"It was a hell of a run – and luckily we didn't ruin the party!"
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