The million-pound question: will Stradivarius land bonus in Lonsdale Cup?
Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup | Group 2 | 2m½f | ITV/ RUK
They put up a statue of legendary stayer Persian Punch on Newmarket's Rowley Mile after his death at Ascot and, more than a decade later, a tribute might well be erected somewhere for Stradivarius if he can pull off the inaugural Stayers' Million bonus.
When insurers Weatherbys Hamilton came up with the idea of a £1 million incentive for a horse to win a key trial, followed by the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup plus this York contest, they did not expect such an early payout – but then they had not reckoned on the class and durability of John Gosden's stayer.
Only greats such as Ardross (1981) have achieved the Yorkshire Cup-Ascot Gold Cup-Goodwood Cup treble but he never ran in this, although owner Charles St George might well have had a rethink with £1m on the table.
Today's 3lb penalty for Group 1 winners may have put many off from running but Persian Punch landed this under the extra burden in 2001 having previously won the Goodwood Cup, as did Opinion Poll (2011). Stradivarius has surpassed those achievements in a stellar campaign that has come full circle back to the Knavesmire where the road to riches began in May.
Bjorn Nielsen's flashy looker, who had the class to win his first Goodwood Cup and finish third in the St Leger as a three-year-old, has not looked back since his comeback romp over the reopposing Desert Skyline in the Yorkshire Cup.
After that, the son of Sea The Stars found an extra gear when it was needed to beat consistent Vazirabad at Royal Ascot under Frankie Dettori and, when the jockey was banned for Goodwood, Andrea Atzeni stepped in to keep the sequence going at the expense ofmuch-fancied Torcedor
Trainer John Gosden said: "It's obviously an exciting time for everyone involved to be going for this bonus and fair play to the sponsors for the initiative.
"We've been happy with him at home since Goodwood but as we know from the World Cup there's no such thing as a certain penalty kick. That said, he's won well at York before and enjoys a flat track and fast ground, so we have to be hopeful."
What the others say
Andrew Balding, trainer of Count Octave
He's shown a fair level of form this year but clearly a lot more is required to live with Stradivarius. The prize-money for placing is good so we thought it was worth him taking his chance.
David Elsworth, trainer of Desert Skyline
We've been trying to beat Stradivarius all year with this horse and I thought I had him in top shape to do so in the Ascot Gold Cup, but he ran a shocker. He ran better behind him at Goodwood but still not good enough and it may well be that we're playing for places again.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Idaho
He's been in good form since finishing third at Goodwood and we're hoping he can finish in the money.
Ed Dunlop, trainer of Red Verdon
We wanted to give him one more run before he enters quarantine for the Melbourne Cup on September 12 but we are under no illusions about the task in hand. He's back up to two miles but we know he stays and he's posted some solid efforts over lesser trips of late. Hopefully this can put him right and he has worked nicely at home of late.
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