Stradivarius might be missing from this week’s Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup, but John Gosden will once again show his support for the staying division by saddling Enbihaar in the York contest.
Stradivarius has relieved the sponsors of £2million over the previous two seasons having won the Yorkshire Cup, the Gold Cup at Ascot and Goodwood Cup before adding the Lonsdale Cup.
Those four races formed part of the £1million bonus which is not on offer this term, meaning Stradivarius has a change to his usual routine – but Gosden thinks the incentive was a vital ingredient in the renewed popularity of the division.
“I think it was a superb initiative by Weatherbys Hamilton. The staying division had been neglected for 10 or 15 years, but the racing public really enjoy the Cup races and they run deep in the tapestry of our programme here, just as they do in France, where they have historic long-distance races like the Prix du Cadran and the Kergorlay,” said Gosden.
“It was a serious mistake for us to neglect them. We’ve seen what has happened in America, where the emphasis is heavily upon one-dimensional speed racing and a mile and a half was referred to at the Breeders’ Cup as a marathon.
“Also in Australia, where they have fantastic sprinters and milers, but are weak at a mile and a quarter and beyond.
“We don’t want to see racing here go the wrong way and the dilemma we face is that the moment a horse wins the Derby, people turn it back to try to win the Eclipse and prove that it’s not a mile-and-a-half horse.
“My viewpoint is that if you take away that whole dimension, British racing will be a lot more anaemic and all the poorer.
“Winning the bonus was one hell of a challenge. Whether it was good for Weatherbys Hamilton only they can know, but I’m inclined to think it was. It raised their profile, and Stradivarius is a horse who is now followed by the general public.
“I think it’s done a fantastic job in raising the profile of the staying and Cup races and in that respect too it achieved its purpose. It’s been simply fantastic for the owner, the breeder, the jockey, the stable and, of course, the horse to take in all of those races and to battle through them.
“To have a horse like Stradivarius is to us a combination of a huge thrill, pleasure and honour. He is such a character and he would probably have done it again this year if staging the bonus had been feasible.”
With no bonus, though, Stradivarius is now on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe trail.
“Stradivarius has a different priority now and he’s in great form,” said Gosden.
“It’s always been the dream of (owner) Bjorn Nielsen to have a great Cup horse who can compete in the Arc, as Ardross did.
“We’ll see what happens with all of the restrictions on movement, but he’s heading first towards the Prix Foy and I couldn’t be happier with him.”