Monday, 15th Jun 2020
Stradivarius has a formidable Royal Ascot record, so can enhance it by completing his hat-trick in the feature 2m 4f Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday (15:35).
Trained by John Gosden for Bjorn Nielsen, the six-year-old son of Sea The Stars is the best stayer of his era. A winner of 14 of his 21 starts, Stradivarius is 4lb and upwards clear of his seven rivals here this year.
Although beaten on his last two outings, that does not tell the full story. Stradivarius went down fighting by the narrowest of margins in the Long Distance Cup on very soft ground in October.
The winner Kew Gardens misses the Ascot Gold Cup because of a setback. Stradivarius was also a tenderly handled and fine third on reappearance in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket earlier this month.
Over a 1m 4f trip that is well short of optimum, he shaped nicely under Frankie Dettori. The summer is when Stradivarius has really shined.
After winning the Queen’s Vase at this meeting three years ago, he went on to follow-up with the first of three Goodwood Cup triumphs.
Stradivarius has also won the Yorkshire Cup and Lonsdale Cup at York in 2018 and 2019. Last season, he completed the older Stayers’ Triple Crown with success in the Doncaster Cup.
Having won the Ascot Gold Cup in the last two campaigns, this may be the easiest renewal. There is no reason why Stradivarius shouldn’t complete his hat-trick, but his odds reflect that.
Others must improve and show they are on his level. Stradivarius is seldom stylish in his wins, but does enough and that is what makes him great.
Stormy weather features in the forecast during Royal Ascot, and it’s a case of the softer the better for Technician This new challenger for Stradivarius is trained by Martyn Meade and progressed last season.
The four-year-old grey by Mastercraftsman won his three starts in France at Longchamp throughout 2019. He also landed the extended 1m 5f Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury.
Technician didn’t really act on a sounder surface in the St Leger when only sixth, but relished more testing going across the Channel in the autumn.
A three-quarters of a length Group 2 success over the re-opposing Moonlight Spirit on Arc weekend saw him resume winning ways. Technician then claimed the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak with a 1 1/4 lengths victory over Call The Wind.
The runner-up scored on his next two starts, so the form isn’t too shabby. In order to get the conditions he relishes, though, Technician needs rain to hit Royal Ascot.
As he’s a fresh face up against Stradivarius, he is feared most and more than last year’s Ascot Gold Cup fourth Cross Counter. This globetrotting five-year-old did well over the winter of 2018-19.
The Godolphin owned gelding landed the Melbourne Cup and Dubai Gold Cup on trips to Australia and the Middle East. Cross Counter didn’t appear to stay this extreme trip in the race last year, however.
Trainer Charlie Appleby and his powerful backers also run Moonlight Spirit with jockey William Buick switching mounts. That looks a negative for Cross Counter despite him being closest on official figures to Stradivarius.
St Leger third Nayef Road has finished in front of Technician three times out of four, yet is twice the price. That doesn’t make sense, so Mark Johnston’s runner looks each-way value.
Nayef Road also came ahead of Moonlight Spirit in the Queen’s Vase last year when a length third to Dashing Willoughby.
He also landed the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, before improving on a tame effort behind Logician at York in the St Leger.
The only time Technician has beaten Nayef Road was on soft ground at Longchamp. A rematch on a sounder surface will be interesting, then.
Nayef Road is also race fit after landing the 2m Group 3 Sagaro Stakes – a recognised Ascot Gold Cup trial – on reappearance at Newcastle.
As he led going easily two out when other re-opposing rivals like Withhold and Prince Of Arran were struggling, and stayed on strongly, the step up in trip should suit.
Johnston is no stranger to success in the staying division either. Another plus for Nayef Road is Ryan Moore takes the ride with no Ballydoyle runners in the Ascot Gold Cup.
On this surface, he looks overpriced. Nayef Road has obvious place prospects in a weak renewal of this elite stamina test.