It takes a performance of exceptional quality to gain universal recognition – and Stradivarius achieved exactly that as he was given the reception of a true champion following his third Gold Cup success at Royal Ascot.
With this year’s fixture taking place behind closed doors, a near silence has greeted virtually every winner at the meeting so far. However, all that changed as those allowed on site ensured the brilliant display of John Gosden’s star stayer as the 4-5 favourite was commended in style.
Had the stands been packed to the rafters the roof would have been raised the moment the six-year-old hit the front – but while there was nothing of the kind, cheers and a round of applause echoed from the stands to give the week the winner it needed.
Those concerned about the deluge of rain in the build up to the two-and-a-half-mile showpiece need not have worried, as the son of Sea The Stars joined the staying greats to become the only the third triple winner of the race with a commanding 10-length success.
Gosden said: “It does (put a tingle down the spine) for a horse to do that. Sagaro was trained by a really good friend of mine, Francois Boutin, and he was ridden by Lester (Piggott). I remember watching all his races. He was something. Yeats was a phenomenon, so to have a horse mentioned in that bracket is what it is all about.
“We are very proud to have won the race three times and it is great for the owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen. He is passionate about his breeding and broodmares. He has been trying to breed a Derby winner, but he has got a very good Gold Cup horse.”
With the exception of the absent Kew Gardens in last year’s Long Distance Cup, many of those that have tried to topple Stradivarius at the top of the staying ladder have fallen by the wayside, something Gosden feels is testament to his character.
He added: “I was pointing out he has beaten Vazirabad, who was the great Aga Khan’s stayer who he actually finished off in the Gold Cup.
“Then there is Order Of St George, Torcedor, Dee Ex Bee. You go through and they are not bad horses he has beaten. The thing is he is always there and he has that exciting turn of foot.”
While the rain may have deterred one or two from siding with Stradivarius, along with taking part in a ferociously-run Coronation Cup on his reappearance at Newmarket earlier this month, Gosden was given plenty of reason for optimism during the preliminaries.
Gosden said: “He is a character. I think must change my aftershave as he got quite colty saddling him up so obviously I’ve overdone the aftershave, but he did show me then that in a way the hard race he had, virtually breaking the track record at Newmarket, hadn’t flattened him. When he was as fresh as that saddling him I thought the bounce factor is under control.”
Although equalling Yeats’ record four victories will no doubt be a topic of discussion at the end of this season, Gosden has other targets on the horizon first.
He said: “We will look towards the Goodwood Cup and a fourth win there. He has won three of them already.
“We will have a look at that and if we run there, we might then take a pull. There is talk of running in an Arc. He ran brilliantly in the Coronation Cup and maybe an Arc on autumn ground is not out of the question.
“He has that exciting thing which is a turn of foot. He is a bit of a mate, as he lives below the guest bedroom. When Bjorn comes to stay and opens the window, Stradivarius is just there looking at him.
“It’s Bjorn’s decision if he comes back next year, but the way he liked my aftershave I’m not sure.”
Frankie Dettori is never one to hide his emotions following big-race victories, and this was no different.
There was of course the trademark flying dismount, and Dettori said: “It was tremendous. I was worried about the rain. They were talking the Martyn Meade horse (Technician) up a lot. He really surprised me as he went through the ground like a hot knife through butter. I had everybody covered by the four and I was surprised I didn’t have anyone to challenge me.
“There is always that scary moment when you get to the furlong marker – will he pick up – but he did and he stretched away by 10. I’m so proud of the horse.
“He has been a joy to be around and he will go down as one of the great stayers, like Yeats and Sagaro, and who knows, we will try the four next year. Bjorn, if you are watching, let’s go for it!
“One day when I am sitting in my rocking chair, to say I rode the horse who won three Gold Cups in a row – that’s a big number. I am very proud of it.
“He is a wonderful horse and well done to Bjorn and John Gosden to have him so good today. Even with no crowd, I’m quite emotional.”
Finishing second to such an equine colossus is no mean feat and while defeat is something no one wants to experience, it was a race and occasion that Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer to runner-up Nayef Road, was pleased to be a part of.
He said: “There is nothing you can say about the horse in front of us that hasn’t been said before. It was quite special actually, standing out the front there as there has been absolute silence watching every race go by and then there every single person stood out there started applauding.
“It was one of those quite special moments to watch.”