John Gosden will tread a familiar path with Stradivarius in his bid to win the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million for the second successive season, after earmarking the Matchbook Yorkshire Cup as his first port of call.
The son of Sea The Stars claimed the Group Two prize at York in May, ahead of recording victories in the Ascot Gold Cup, Qatar Goodwood Cup and the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup back at the Knavesmire in August to scoop the seven-figure bonus.
After making it five wins from as many starts last season in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Champions Day, the diminutive five-year-old was reported to be in good shape ahead of his seasonal return by Gosden on Monday at a WH Stayers’ Million event at Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket.
He said: “He is in great order and has just started cantering and building up his preparation, and all being well we go to the Yorkshire Cup. We’ve just been doing the usual canters on Warren Hill. He has had a great winter.
“He has done great. He is not a big horse, but he has thickened out and strengthened.
“He is a grand horse to train. He is most untypical of a stayer in that he is quite a neat horse.”
Looking back at last season, Gosden feels there is one race that stands head and shoulders above all the victories Stradivarius achieved.
He said: “I think the defining moment was the Ascot Gold Cup. He really got down low and dug deep.
“He (Frankie Dettori) timed it to perfection, particularly going into unknown territory.
“He stayed the two and a half miles last season, which is something you never know if they are going to do until you race over it, as you can’t practice that kind of thing.
While Stradivarius, who is 11-2 with Paddy Power to claim the bonus again, may now be a multiple Group One race winner, it is a route that at first Gosden did not think he would take earlier in his career.
He said: “He ran well up here (Rowley Mile) behind Cracksman to finish fourth (as a two-year-old), then we sent him to Newcastle and he saw the mile out well and I thought he would be a great handicapper.
“He went to Beverley and saw the mile and a quarter out well, then me and Frankie managed to get him beat at Chester.
“He then did incredibly well at Royal Ascot (Queen’s Vase in 2017) and it was a lovely ride from the other great Sardinian (Andrea Atzeni), who also did well on him in the Goodwood Cup.”
Gosden could also aim Weekender at the series, which will take in eight preliminary races – up from four last season – starting this weekend in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan, which has been included alongside races in France, Ireland and Germany.
He added: “It is great they have opened it right up. Obviously you have the Dubai Gold Cup this Saturday and a race in Germany, France and Ireland.
“With a bit of luck you will have seven or eight going to the Ascot Gold Cup all eligible for the bonus.
“Weekender might well go for it. He was going to Dubai, but he got a cut that wasn’t healing correctly on his leg so I didn’t want to travel him.
“A race like the Sagaro (Stakes, at Ascot) would be a very likely spot for him.”