The two-time Million Pound Stayer will look to defend his Champions Day crown
Super stayer Stradivarius heads 14 entries left in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.
The John Gosden-trained five-year-old scooped last year’s renewal and has not lost since finishing a close third to Order Of St George in the 2017 running.
He has subsequently won all ten of his races and extended his winning sequence when cruising home ahead of Cleonte and Max Dynamite in the Doncaster Cup last month.
Earlier this year he won a second Matchbook Yorkshire Cup, a second Gold Cup, a third Qatar Goodwood Cup and a second Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup – exploits that secured his connections a second Stayers’ Million bonus offered by Weatherbys Hamilton.
He has already won a record 11 races that fall under the QIPCO British Champions Series umbrella – two more than Frankel managed in 2011 and 2012 – and is seeking a record sixth QIPCO British Champions Series win of the season.
Gosden has also left in the lightly-raced Royal Line, who was making it five wins from nine races when landing the Group 3 Sun Racing September Stakes on his latest outing.
Dee Ex Bee has chased home Stradivarius three times this season, in the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup. Last year’s Investec Derby runner-up was placed in a Group 1 race for the seventh time in his career, without managing a win at the highest level, when third in the Prix du Cadran this month.
An intriguing new rival for Stradivarius could be Kew Gardens, the fluent 2018 William Hill St Leger winner. He was runner-up in the Irish equivalent last time, having previously been second to Defoe in the Investec Coronation Cup.
Another to note is Withhold, a six-length winner of the Listed Jockey Club Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket last time. The Gosden-trained Flying Officer won that race in 2015 en route to landing the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup.
WHAT THEY SAY:
Roger Charlton on Withhold
“He’s a sweet horse to train and an intended runner. Assuming we get there, I think there will be an awful lot of people at Ascot who will have never seen him in the flesh. He’s a magnificent beast of a horse and I’m hoping he will be around next year, when I’m looking forward to running him in the Cup races.
“Stradivarius has won ten races in a row and is phenomenal. He should win but if we are second, third or fourth to him I will be thrilled.”
Aidan O’Brien on Kew Gardens
“He had a little setback that meant he had to miss the Gold Cup but he ran well the last time [when second in the Irish St Leger] and he’s been fine since.
“He seems to be in good form and we’ve always thought he would get two miles no problem. The nicer the ground the better it will suit him.”
Bjorn Nielsen, owner/breeder of Stradivarius
“He’s been a once in a lifetime horse for me, truly incredible. I’m so lucky to own him. You always bond better with the good ones, especially those who are paying the bills. And he doesn’t bite me!
“I read somewhere that he and Frankel are the only horses have won five QIPCO British Champions Series races in a year, which he’s done twice now. If he achieves the sixth on Saturday he will be the only horse to have done it – that would be some feat.
“His big weapon is his turn of foot against the stayers. He has what they don’t have. It doesn’t matter if they run it fast or run it slow, they’ve tried it every way. When the chips are down a furlong and a half out and Frankie says ‘go’ then he goes ‘boom’.
“He’s been well managed by a great trainer and will stay in training as long as he stays enthusiastic and sound. His target will be the Gold Cup with a run in the Sagaro or Yorkshire Cup as a prep beforehand.”
Bin Battuta (GB) Capri (IRE) Cleonte (IRE) Dee Ex Bee (GB) Kew Gardens (IRE) Max Dynamite (FR) Mekong (GB) Royal Line (GB) Stradivarius (IRE) Withhold (GB) Pilaster (GB) South Pacific (GB) Delphinia (IRE) South Sea Pearl (IRE)