The Stradivarius story – the last £1m bonus
Even if Stradivarius remains in training next year, there wont be a third £1m stayers bonus to be won – the backers, Weatherbys-Hamilton, who put up the prize if four designated races were won didn’t think the feat would be achieved, let alone twice. But they hadn’t banked on Stradivarius, and a second cheque for £1m has been written.
Both this year and last he won the four requisite races culminating in August’s Lonsdale Cup at York.
However, nearly three years ago It wasn’t an altogether auspicious start. At 3/1, Stradivarius made his racing debut at Nottingham in October 2016 over 8½f and finished fifth in a field of nine. A fortnight later the son of Sea The Stars, who dominated middle-distance races with wins in the 2000 Guineas, Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, had his second race, this time at Newmarket, where he finished fourth to Cracksman over the same distance.
The following month he lost his maiden tag in a 1m handicap on Newcastle’s all-weather surface. He won by a head in a finish with less then a length between the first four. Richard Havlin rode the even-money favourite and the first-place prize money of £3,234 took his winnings to £3,715.
In his first race as a 3yo, trainer John Gosden entered him in a 1m1f handicap at Beverley in April. He won by 6l having taken the lead at the furlong marker.
Frankie Dettori then rode him for the first time in a 1m4f handicap at Chester where he was an even-money ½l second to Here And Now.
Smallest of gaps
There were then back-to-back wins over distances further than 1m4f, each time ridden by Andrea Atzeni. The first came in the Group 2 1m5f Queens Vase at Royal Ascot when he beat Count Octave by a neck, getting in front just as the line approached, after the smallest of gaps opened up for him. The win took his earnings from £11,738 to £172,997.
A month later he won his first Group 1 race, getting the better of Big Orange by 1¾l in the Goodwood Cup over 2m. He moved into second place 2f from home and went into the lead inside the final furlong, running on at the finish.
At the highest level, connections took home £296,593.
Next time out he was third to Capri in the St Leger at Doncaster, a fraction over ½l behind the winner, with Crystal Ocean second. He was third again in his final race as a 3yo, a length behind odds-on winner Order Of St George on Champions Day at Ascot in the 1m7f Group 2 Long Distance Cup.
The place money took his season’s earnings to over £590,000, and it would be the last time he’d be beaten.
He opened his account as a 4yo winning the 1m5f Group 2 Yorkshire Cup by 3l. Ridden by Frankie Dettori, he come from the rear to be in contention 3f from home, laying down a serious challenge at the 2f pole and taking the lead with around a furlong to go.
It was the start of a challenge for his first Weatherby-Hamilton £1m stayers’ bonus that now required victories in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup at York.
Held off the challenge
With Dettori aboard again, he took the 2m3f Gold Cup by ¾l. His price was 7/4, the last time an odds-against SP would be returned. He was in the lead a furlong from home and gallantly held off the challenge of runner-up Vazirabad.
He won the Goodwood Cup over 2m, this time ridden by Andrea Atzeni, again taking the lead around 1f from home and holding on strongly to beat Torcedor by ½l. He was 4/5 favourite and added another £283,550 prize-money, and had now earnt over £1.25m winnings.
The £1m bonus was achieved with a 1½l win in the 2m Lonsdale Cup at York. Frankie Dettori had him in the lead coming to the 1f marker and always had runner-up Count Octave beaten.
He’d now won over £1.38m in prize money, plus the £1m stayers’ bonus.
He finished last season’s campaign with victory in the Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot at 1m7f, adding another £300,000 in prize money, when the winning distance was again 1½l.
This time Frankie Dettori had him leading two-furlongs out and stayed on well in his customary style to beat Thomas Hobson.
His 4yo campaign netted over £2m for owner and breeder Bjorn Nielsen.
Leading up to the 2019 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, he again won the Yorkshire Cup to give him a career strike rate of 66%. The York win, by ¾l, was in the manner of so many of his earlier wins – in front a furlong from home, staying on well and giving his closest challenger little hope, with a final flourish as the post approaches.
Prize money then stood at over £2.77m and Stradivarius was 5/4 with Paddy Power for a repeat Gold Cup, and to make it seven wins in a row.
The first two days of this year’s Royal Meeting saw heavy rain and the going was reported as soft. This raised concerns about how Stradivarius was going to cope on day three with the slow ground. It meant, on the morning of the race, odds against were still available.
But then the market responded to the results of the first three races on Gold Cup day.
Frankie Dettori had won them all, and the bookies were taking no chances. Stradivarius was now evens, albeit that Dee Ex Bee and Cross Counter had garnered support in the run up to the race and were second and third in the betting.
But any concerns were short-lived. Stradivarius didn’t have the clearest of runs, but come the 1f marker he was again in the lead, had the others beaten and finished a length in front of Dee Ex Bee. Frankie won his fourth race of the day, Stradivarius clocked up his seventh win on the spin, and a shade over £283,000 was added to his winnings.
The weather on the first day of Glorious Goodwood, when Stradivarius was attempting his third straight win in the Goodwood Cup, was filthy. Strong winds with squally rain swept across the course.
Stradivarius was unperturbed. He beat his old adversary Dee Ex Bee by a neck and notched up another Group 1 victory. His strike rate passed 70%.
Frankie Dettori, riding another Goodwood winner, 32-years after his first ever win which was on the Sussex Downs, said:
“Stradivarius wastes very little energy and he’s very tough mentally. He’s never going to be flash and win by 10 but he gets the job done. All I have to do is put him in the place to win the race and he does the rest, he’s a perfect partner.”
In August Stradivarius headed back to York to contest the Lonsdale Cup and collect the second £1m bonus. Dee Ex Bee was once again to play second fiddle as Stradivarious came to the stand-side rail with two furlongs to go and began to close down on the Mark Johnston runner.
When Stradivarius came alongside, Dee Ex Been briefly responded to the challenge, but it was in vain. The winning margin was as economical as ever – 1¼ lengths. That added race prize-money of £127k and took career prize money to £2.27m, plus the bonuses.
We now have Champions Day at Ascot next month for the final outing as a five-year-old.
But further Group 1 success is not ruled out, as owner Bjorn Nielsen intends to keep Stradivarius in training as a six-year-old.
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