Stradivarius on course for million-pound bonus after impressive Cup success
The best horses have a way of forcing the issue.
Stradivarius came into the Qatar Goodwood Cup with connections insisting they were focusing solely on keeping him as the only winner of the race since it acquired Group 1 status in 2017.
An impressive demolition of Torcedor later they were compelled to accept the bid is on for the £1 million bonus offered for the first time this year by Weatherbys Hamilton to connections of a horse who could win one of four qualifying races, followed by the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup.
"As long as he comes out of this 100 per cent we'll be going York, I should think!" joked a relieved Bjorn Nielsen after watching his homebred overhaul his gritty sparring partner.
Torcedor threw everything at his Gold Cup conqueror. Colm O'Donoghue admitted he was able to ride the race perfectly to suit the gallant six-year-old trained by Jessica Harrington. The tension in the crowd highlighted a collective fear he had stolen it. Even Nielsen was nervous. Andrea Atzeni, on the other hand, never had a moment's doubt.
"When Colm quickened it may have looked like he put the race to bed, but I was on the best horse in the race and I wasn't really panicking," said Atzeni.
"Colm rode a very clever race but my horse was always going to get on top; he's by far the best stayer around. The big one's in a couple of weeks' time, so the last thing I wanted to do was give him a hard time. I kept him fresh for Frankie [Dettori]."
It was a victory that took Stradivarius's career earnings through the £1m barrier and, as with any wealthy young prodigy, attentions immediately turned to earning his second million in the Lonsdale Cup at York in 24 days' time.
"We can think about it now for the first time," said Nielsen. "I wasn't ignoring it, I'm just aware how hard it is to get these horses ready for a single Group 1, to get a horse to peak time after time, and John Gosden is a master at it."
But while this was the third leg of four en route to the bonus prize, it meant more to Nielsen than a mere stepping stone. He is very aware a financial gimmick will not do as much for the horse's place in history as writing his name on these great staying prizes multiple times.
"I grew up in the era of Ardross, Le Moss, Buckskin and Sagaro, and those great stayers won a couple of these, a couple of Gold Cups and a couple of Yorkshire Cups, so if you are going to be one of those really good horses you have to win a few of these," he said.
"I'm not saying he's that good, and it's great to win them once, don't get me wrong, but to have a horse with the chance of achieving those kinds of feats is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We'll see next year if he can do it again."
Next up there is the what-could-have-been smallish-but-is-now-huge matter of the Lonsdale Cup, and Gosden said: "We'll have to do everything we can to try to win it. We have three and a half weeks, which should be all right. We know they need to be in top order for such a test."
A half-length separated the first two, with a further six back to Idaho, while the Queen's four-year-old Call To Mind, trained by William Haggas, was sadly pulled up and has run his last race.
The trainer's wife Maureen reported of the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup winner: "He has suffered a nasty tendon injury. He is alive and in no danger, but he'll never race again.
"It's a shame to see his career end like that, but it could have been a lot worse. Hopefully he'll be able to be a stallion."
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