Royal Ascot

Stradivarius first, daylight second

Champion stayer produces a stunning performance to land a Gold Cup hat-trick on day three of Royal Ascot

Stradivarius (Sea The Stars) confirmed his status as one of the greatest stayers to grace the turf at Royal Ascot, bringing up a hat-trick of wins in the Gold Cup (Gr 1, 2m 4f) yesterday. 

It wasn’t a narrow victory though, with the John Gosden-trained six-year-old winning by a stunning margin of ten lengths under regular rider Frankie Dettori, after enjoying a comfortable run off the back of Prince Of Arran (Shirocco) for most of the journey.

The entire gradually improved heading into the bend and when Dettori asked something of him with two furlongs to go, Stradivarius scooted past his rivals with the minimum of fuss.  

After leading the trip, laststart Sagaro Stakes (Gr 3, 2m ½ f) winner Nayef Road (Galileo) was gallant to hold on for second with 2018 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) victor Cross Counter (Teofilo) coming home a further eight lengths away in third. 

Coming off a third-place performance in the Coronation Cup (Gr 1, 1m 4f), there were concerns Stradivarius wouldn’t handle the soft ground but the going proved to be a non-factor in the six-year-old’s emphatic victory. 

“I had to have an excuse ready in case I messed up the training and I get the blame as the trainer,” Gosden said.

“Stradivarius is quite a character. I must change my aftershave, as he got quite coltish whilst I was saddling him. I must have overdone the aftershave or something. 

“He is quite a noisy character and he was having a shout and play out there – he does think life is a bit of fun and when you win races like this, I suppose it is.

“He showed me that the hard race he had at Newmarket had not flattened him. When he was that fresh when I was saddling, I thought that the bounce factor was under control.

 “It was a superb performance today from Stradivarius. I think the benefit of running in the Coronation Cup in a track record time meant he was fully fit. I was concerned about the bounce factor and him maybe not being fully fit, but he was full of himself saddling.

“He has that exciting thing which is a turn of foot. He has beaten some good horses in his time. People have tried to criticise the opposition, but he has put them away with that turn of foot and he has even done it on this ground.”

“He is a bit of a mate, as he lives below the guest bedroom. When Bjorn Nielsen (owner and breeder) comes to stay and opens the window, Stradivarius is just there looking at him.

Asked whether Stradivarius would return for a tilt at a recordequalling fourth Gold Cup next year, Gosden replied: “I am not sure, that’s Bjorn’s decision – the way he liked my aftershave I am not sure.

“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.”

Dettori added: “Tremendous. I was worried about the rain; they were talking about the Martyn Meade horse (Technician) a lot, it was a concern, and he actually really surprised me because he went like a hot knife through butter, really. 

“I had everybody covered by the four, then was surprised that I didn’t have anyone to challenge me. It is always a scary moment when you get to the furlong marker whether you will pick up or not, but he did and stretched away by ten.

“I was trying to use the horse in front of me as a reference point, but I didn’t want anyone to pounce on me quick, so with my first glance I saw James Doyle (Cross Counter) off the bridle, and I couldn’t see Oisin (Murphy) on the grey horse (Technician), and then he was in trouble as well, so I thought I would leave them behind and just ride my race to get Ryan Moore (Nayef Road). I was surprised to see that they were all spent forces by then.

“I am so proud of the horse. He is a joy to be around. He will go down as one of the great stayers like Yeats and Sagaro and who knows, maybe we will try for the four (wins) next year. 

“Well done to Bjorn and John Gosden to have him so good today. Even with no crowd, I am quite emotional. It is a very proud moment. 

“It is all about Stradivarius today.”

 Purchased for 330,000gns at Book 1 of the 2015 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, Stradivarius (6 h Sea The Stars – Private Life by Bering) has now won 15 of his 22 starts and accumulated £2,715,474 (AUS$4.925m approx) in career earnings.

He is one of seven foals out of the stakes-placed mare Private Life (Bering), making him a half-brother to five winners including the dual Group 3 scorer Persian Storm (Monsun). 

His winning seconddam, Poughkeepsie (Sadler’s Wells), has produced nine winners from ten foals to race, including the stakes-scoring pair Pretty Tough (Desert King) and Parisienne (Distant Relative). 

Poughkeepsie is also responsible for Patineuse (Peintre Celebre), the dam of 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist (Monsun). 

Stradivarius is one of 11 Group 1 winners for Sea The Stars, who stood at Gilltown Stud in Ireland for a career-high fee of €150,000 (AUS$245,000 approx) in 2020. 

Crowley and Hamdan team up for another feature win

It’s already been a fruitful Royal Ascot for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Racing and his retained rider Jim Crowley so far, and they added a fifth win for the week when Molatham (Night Of Thunder) took out the Jersey Stakes (Gr 3, 7f).

Trained by Roger Varian, Molatham settled towards the front of the pack and kicked clear alongside Monarch Of Egypt (American Pharoah), going head-to-head with Aidan O’Brien’s colt before edging him out to score by half a length. 

Long-shot Symbolize (Starspangledbanner) was three and a quarter lengths back in third, with Ropey Guest (Cable Bay) another half-length back in fourth. 

“Molatham is a lovely horse with a great temperament,” Varian said. “He has done nothing wrong in his career, really – he was second here in a very good maiden on his debut, and the form of his Listed win reads very well with Wichita, the 2000 Guineas second, in behind him that day. 

“We have always thought the world of this horse and he has come into himself in the last few weeks. It is nice to have a good horse like this for Sheikh Hamdan, who has been a great supporter of mine since I started.

“We will keep everything on the table at the moment. Molatham is obviously one of the top three-year-olds around after that performance, and at some point those nice three-year-olds will have to come together, but … I will speak with Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Hamdan’s team, we will see how he comes out of this race and we will see which direction we want to go with the horse. He is a jolly nice horse to look forward with.

“Nothing is impossible – he has just won a Jersey and this race has a rich history of producing good horses. He looked a good horse today, and we will be excited about him for the rest of the season for sure.”

Crowley credited Molatham’s will to win in fighting off Monarch Of Egypt to secure the victory.

“I got headed and probably found myself there too soon in the race,” the jockey said. 

“Molatham is a horse who does not want to be in front two furlongs out. He was going so well and I found myself in front. On the soft ground, it was difficult for me to sit and then expect him to pick up, so I went for home on him. I got headed (by Monarch Of Egypt) and that did me a favour.”

As for his success so far this week, Crowley was elated. He said: “I had six winners at Royal Ascot coming into this! I am not complaining though. 

“When you are a jockey, you take one for the meeting, so to get five is great. I am very lucky to ride such nice horses and for such a big operation.”

Bred by Cheveley Park Stud and purchased by Shadwell for 160,000gns at Book 2 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, Molatham (3 c Night Of Thunder – Cantal by Pivotal) has had five starts for three wins and one placing, earning a total of £103,052 (AUS$186,900 approx) in prize-money. 

He is one of three winners from three to race out of Cantal (Pivotal), making him a half-brother to dual Listed scorer Perfection (Dutch Art). Cantal herself is a half-sister to last year’s JRA Cup (Gr 3, 2040m) scorer and Cranbourne Cup (Listed, 2050m) third Captain Cook (Dubawi), as well as Group 3 victor Evasive (Elusive Quality). 

Molatham’s third dam is the four-time Group 1 winner East Of The Moon (Private Account), who is also a half-sister to the late sire Kingmambo (Mr Prospector). Further back, this is also the family of Irish 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) scorer Alpha Centauri (Mastercraftsman). 

The colt is one of ten stakes scorers for second season sire and former shuttler Night Of Thunder (Dubawi), but he is the first Royal Ascot winner for the Darley stallion, whose best result as a racehorse at the royal meeting was when finishing second to Kingman (Invincible Spirit) in the 2014 St James’s Palace Stakes (Gr 1, 1m).

Night Of Thunder shuttled to Australia for one season in 2016, covering 96 mares at a fee of $16,500 (inc GST). His first crop down under is headed by Blue Diamond Preview (Gr 3, 1000m) winner A Beautiful Night and Redoute’s Choice Stakes (Listed, 1200m) victor River Night, while he is also responsible for six more southern hemisphere winners.

Last year, the son of Dubawi (Dubai Destination) equalled Fasliyev’s (Nureyev) European record for stakes winners as a first season stallion, siring a total of seven black type scorers in the northern hemisphere. He stood at Darley’s Kildangan Stud for a fee of €25,000 in 2020. 

O’Brien and Moore produce regally-bred colt to land Chesham

Battleground (War Front), the first foal out of champion mare Found (Galileo), produced a dominant performance to take out the Chesham Stakes (Listed, 7f) at Royal Ascot yesterday, providing the ever-powerful team of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore with their third win of the week.

After finishing fifth in a sixfurlong maiden at Naas ten days earlier, the regally-bred colt settled behind runners for most of the race, before veering out with a furlong to go and running on strongly to score by two and half lengths. 

March Law (Lawman) was second with the wayward Seattle Rock (Fastnet Rock) coming home a length and three-quarters away in third. 

“Battleground ran at Naas, finished a good fifth and Wayne Lordan (jockey) loved him,” O’Brien said. “We are delighted to win today. 

“He had a good clear run at Naas, there was no hard luck story but he learnt a lot from it. He is out of Found so you would have hoped he would stay further really.

“We were worried about the ground. He is by War Front, but Found handled soft ground when she won the Breeders’ Cup Turf.”

With no solid plans in place for the colt going forward, O’Brien flagged a couple of potential targets for the two-year-old. 

“He is an exciting horse – he could be anything. He could be one for the July meeting or the National Stakes. 

“I would imagine he would stay well and probably a mile will be his trip. Found got a mile and a half, but he is by War Front and that is a big influence for speed.

“We are hoping that he could progress into a very good miler. Found was an unbelievable, magic mare. She was one of the very special ones and everyone remembers her.”

O’Brien and Moore also teamed up on Wednesday to score the Hampton Court Stakes (Gr 3, 1m 2f) with fellow regally-bred colt Russian Emperor (Galileo), and the champion trainer provided an update on the three-year-old son of Atlantic Jewel (Fastnet Rock). 

“Russian Emperor won first time this season and then he finished second at Leopardstown in the Derrinstown,” he said. “It was a big run yesterday – he gets a mile and a quarter and I think he will get a bit further. 

“We will see what the lads want to do, but he will have a choice of either the Epsom, French or Irish Derby. We will see how he is over the next few days.”

Battleground (2 c War Front – Found by Galileo) is the first foal out of champion mare Found.

In 21 starts, the daughter of Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) won six times, three of which were in Group 1 company: the Prix Marcel Boussac (Gr 1, 1600m) at two, the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr 1, 12f) at three and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) at four. She was also second at the top level on ten occasions and finished third in the Breeders Cup Turf at her final start. 

Out of dual Group 1 scorer Red Evie (Intikhab), Found is a sister to Group 3 winners Best In The World and Magical Dream. Further back, this is also the family of Irish 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) third Martinova (Martinmas).  

Battleground is the ninth stakes winner produced on the cross between War Front (Danzig) and champion sire Galileo, joining the likes of Roly Poly, Fog Of War and Valachi Downs shuttler U S Navy Flag, who will stand at the New Zealand farm for NZ$17,500 (plus GST) in 2020.

The victory also provided War Front with his 91st individual stakes winner. He stood at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky for a fee of US$250,000 (AUS$365,000 approx) in 2020.