Let’s be honest: Stradivarius has never really shown any signs of weakness in his outstanding staying career thus far.
The six-year-old has won everything his discipline has to offer and, on October 17, he will look to add another major title to his collection – the Long Distance Cup, which forms part of the British Champions Day card at Ascot.
But, and it’s a big but, if he has shown any weakness – and we use that term loosely – it has been at Ascot, where twice he has come up short in this very renewal.
It’s a situation not lost on punters, who have shown their support in the market for Enbihaar, a promising upstart who won the Lonsdale Cup earlier in the season. And with a quality field expected – and many will keep abreast of the main horse racing results in the weeks in the lead-up to the Long Distance Cup to stay on top of developments – there is a chance that Stradivarius could be vulnerable in the October showpiece.
So could the champion stayer be about to come unstuck against a young pretender to his throne?
John Gosden will hold many of the aces heading into the Long Distance Cup. He trains both Stradivarius and Enbihaar, and while the decision of who runs where is in the hands of connections, the legendary trainer is not opposed to pitching his two stars into battle against one another.
However, that will likely depend on whether Stradivarius is sent off to do battle in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, and how he reacts to the trip if he does. “It will depend upon how we get on in the Arc, but Stradivarius is a tough horse and it’s not out of the question,” Gosden said when asked about his Champions Day entries.
Even if he doesn’t make the outing to Ascot, Gosden will be rubbing his hands together at the prospect at seeing Enbihaar amongst Group 1 competition again. Her route to the top has been unconventional, but four Group 2 victories – followed by a top tier triumph in the Lonsdale Cup – have justified keeping the five-year-old on the track and in racing.
That latter victory came in her first run over the two-mile mark, with jockey Jim Crowley convinced that her best work to date could come over the longer distance. Perhaps Stradivarius could be heading for another gruelling afternoon’s work at Ascot…
There are other eye-catching early entries as well. Logician – another Gosden charge – is a sprightly four-year-old who has achieved a perfect six-from-six record so far, including St Leger and Voltigeur Stakes triumphs. Will he be able to make the step up to two miles?
Another who might take the step up to two miles for the first time is Fujaira Prince, who was an impressive winner at Ascot in the Copper Horse Handicap and who followed up with victory in the Ebor Handicap last time out.
And then there’s Nayef Road, who was barely a length shy of Stradivarius and Enbihaar in the Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup respectively, and what about the chances of former Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who is rumoured to be moving up to the two-mile mark.
Whichever way you look at it, the Long Distance Cup should be an absolute cracker – Stradivarius or no Stradivarius…