Stradivarius squeezed through the smallest of gaps on the home turn for a dramatic fifth win from five starts this year in the G2 Qipco British Champions Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Trainer John Gosden admitted afterwards that the participation of a colt he described as “fabulous” had been “touch and go” owing to unsuitably soft ground.
After the four-year-old, who was third last year, had scored by a length and a half under Frankie Dettori from one-time Gosden inmate Thomas Hobson and then survive a stewards' inquiry, having drifted right and checked the runner-up inside the final furlong, the trainer said: “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 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.
“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 52 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.”
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