26 July 2022

We’re not going to say goodbye after that – Nielsen on Stradivarius

26 July 2022

At the beginning of the season there was a three-stop route to retirement laid out for the great Stradivarius – one of racing’s most enduring and adored characters.

York, Ascot, Goodwood. Those were the supposed legs of a three-part swansong, a final call for racing fans to see the chestnut before the racing phase of his career expired and the breeding one began.

In the Yorkshire Cup he was victorious by a length, claiming that race for a third time in front of a Knavesmire crowd that have never seen him beaten.

The farewell tour then arrived at the Royal meeting as the eight-year-old lined up in the Gold Cup – victory in which would have left him equal with Yeats as a four-time winner of the great race.

That record remained untroubled, however, as he was beaten into third by the quietly impressive Kyprios and the long-standing Stradivarius trinity of John Gosden, Bjorn Nielsen and Frankie Dettori splintered in view of the racing public when the rider was deemed responsible in opting to take his trusted partner too far back.

Stradivarius leaving the parade ring (Steven Paston/PA) (PA Wire)

The Gosden-Dettori “sabbatical” that followed proved a short-lived one – but even when Dettori retained the rides on horses like Emily Upjohn and Inspiral it became clear there was to be no Stradivarius reunion as Andrea Atzeni received the Goodwood call-up.

Expecting Tuesday to be his last appearance on the rolling Sussex Downs, the track had displayed a ‘thank you Stradivarius’ banner on the turf and handed racegoers flags that bore the same message.

In the spirit of sportsmanship and in honour of a horse whose legacy is bigger than the unity of his connections, Dettori stood shoulder to shoulder with Gosden and Nielsen in the paddock prior to the race and was swift to wish Atzeni good luck before the bell was rung and the jockeys mounted.

In a two-mile race there is no need to get too excited too quickly and it was only when Stradivarius challenged at the cut-out in the rail that the onlookers lit up in support for their crowd-pulling favourite.

He was only marginally behind the Gold Cup winner at the furlong marker and from then on he looked just on the cusp of producing the last-gasp burst of speed that would propel him over the line ahead of his rival.

Stradivarius went down fighting at Goodwood (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

It was not to be, he was beaten a neck by Kyprios, another white-faced chestnut, an emerging and unsung presence in the division who seems bound to be overshadowed so long as Stradivarius keeps turning up.

This was the case as the runner-up returned to the paddock to an outbreak of applause, a welcome he seemed to enjoy when bounding in with a whinny for the waiting spectators.

Looking nothing at all like a spent force, he was praised by Gosden as the media crowded Nielsen and awaited a verdict.

“We’re not going to say goodbye after that,” Nielsen said. “When he is at the top of his game and I think he ran like that today.

“He has still run in the last year or two like he has his enthusiasm and he still training well.

“There is no point stopping him in the middle of the season. This is the best Goodwood Cup – it was lined up to be a tremendous race and going into this race today I thought he could win or finish third or fourth.

“He has run within a head of the Gold Cup winner and I think it was a great performance and we’ll go on for at least one more.”

A return to York seems to be the favoured next step, with the Doncaster Cup dismissed due to a prize fund considered insufficient.

The Lonsdale Cup, a race he has won three times before, would be the target, and it is not out of the question that Dettori could take the reins once again.

“York would be on the cards for the Lonsdale and the long straight suits him there,” said Nielsen.

“Frankie has handled him well there (York) and I don’t know if he will ride. I need to discuss that with the trainer.

“I thought it was classy from Frankie to come out before the race and wish Andrea luck before the race after all these years. I think there’s a good chance he goes to York.

“There’s no prize money at Doncaster, so tell ARC that unless they double the prize money he’ll never go to Doncaster again.

“He’ll run again, I can say that, in spite of all this ‘thank you Stradivarius’. He’ll be back here next year!”

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