Stradivarius capped a magnificent season when coming out on top in a dramatic race for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot.
Winner of the newly-inaugurated Stayers’ Million after four victories throughout 2018, Stradivarius completed a five-timer to confirm his status as the undisputed staying king.
It was hard work, though, as he had to be brave to go through a gap for Frankie Dettori on the inside turning for home, which had been left by the pace-setting Flag Of Honour.
After seeing that horse off, Stradivarius appeared to leave Thomas Hobson a little short of room when Willie Mullins’ charge tried to sneak up the far rail in the final furlong.
However, Stradivarius (even-money favourite) would not be denied and the John Gosden-trained four-year-old crossed the line a length and a half to the good from the Irish raider. Dettori picked up a three-day ban for careless riding.
“Obviously Ryan (Moore, riding Flag Of Honour, who made much of the running) was the one to beat. I had to shield Stradivarius a bit and then I was in the lap of the gods trying to get a run,” explained Dettori.
“When his horse didn’t turn (into the straight) very well, I thought, I know I am committed – I might not get another chance. I got out of that pocket. For him I went far too soon, but I had to take the commitment.
No way through here!
Here’s Oisin Murphy and Thomas Hobson’s view of Stradivarius
— Racing UK (@racing_uk) October 20, 2018
“In fairness, he answered every call, and I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have that much horse. I had so much horse that I was able to take the gap in a split second before even Ryan realised.
“Stradivarius has been a model of consistency and he deserved to be crowned champion stayer. What a season it has been for him.”
“He’s been a model of consistency and owns the crown of being champion stayer – you can’t take it away from him. He’s all heart, this horse.”
Gosden was full of praise for Dettori’s winning efforts.
“I said on Racing UK beforehand that the ground was one thing, but we are going to get put in the box from stall one and he’ll have to be Houdini to get out of it – well he did,” he said.
“He saw that glimpse on the bend and he dived for it. Ryan (Moore, on Flag Of Honour) tried to shut it but he was too late. It was a very clever ride. If he’d tried to come round, he would have been put back in that box.
“He’s a great horse – a fabulous horse – who didn’t like that ground, but what a clever ride to take that one opportunity. We committed sooner than we wanted to on ground he didn’t like, but it was jockeyship at its highest level.”
Gosden added: “He benefited from the break (since his last race). I wouldn’t have come here unless he was in great order. Bjorn (Nielsen, owner/breeder) and I had a long talk out on the pavement for 15 minutes after I walked the course and it was touch and go whether we ran him, but I said ”It’s Champions Day and we should run.
“The ground is in pristine condition, although yes it’s too slow for him. They won’t go a great gallop and our problem will be getting out of the box, so full marks to the horse and the jockey for being brave enough to go through that tiny little gap. Lucky he’s not a big horse, isn’t it.”
Stradivarius, the champion stayer, stays in training and will bid to repeat this year’s success in the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million. He is already only 9-4 from -2 with Ladbrokes for its centerpiece, the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in June.
Gosden said: “He won’t run until May, when he will reappear in the Sagaro Stakes here at Ascot or the Yorkshire Cup, and then we will try to win the Weatherbys Hamilton Million once again.”
Mullins said of his runner-up: “He ran a cracker. We are delighted. I thought Oisin (Murphy) gave him a super ride. He is full of guts. He stuck to the plan, and it nearly came off.
“We had one plan, and it didn’t matter what the pace was. We knew what we were going to do, and it nearly worked.
“We were hoping to be in Melbourne this year. I thought I had him in terrific order. We’ve all next year to run in these races.”