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Stradivarius on the brink of Glorious history


Trainer John Gosden. Photo: Edward Whitaker

Trainer John Gosden. Photo: Edward Whitaker

Trainer John Gosden. Photo: Edward Whitaker

Britain's King Edward VII famously described Glorious Goodwood as a "garden party with racing tacked on". In 2020, this highlight of the "season", and one of Sussex's great annual social occasions, can be summed up slightly more succinctly: just racing.

The sport is getting used to racing behind closed doors now. But however good the sport on the field of play, it remains a bit like flat Champagne - lacking the sparkle that only a big crowd can bring to an occasion.

So, even if Stradivarius becomes the first horse to win for the fourth time the Goodwood Cup there will be about 100 people present to witness the feat.

In that respect, one of the highlights of this week will, therefore, be the presence of 5,000 Goodwood members and their guests on Saturday. It should be a step in the right direction for the return of crowds not just to racing but to all sports.

Until Saturday, there may not be many to do the cheering but there still should be a lot to cheer about.

Tomorrow's Sussex Stakes has the look of the race of the season so far. Siskin, the Irish Guineas winner, and Kameko, the English Guineas winner, start against the four-year-olds Circus Maximus, the Queen Anne winner, and the improving Mohaather.

The Nassau Stakes on Thursday is the best fillies' race of the season, while the blink-and-you-miss-him Battaash aims for a fourth King George Stakes on Friday.

Today, however, the undoubted star is Stradivarius, which ran away with his third Ascot Gold Cup last month when he beat Nayef Road by 10 lengths. His vast experience at this level should be enough to see off young pretender Santiago, even though he has to give Aidan O'Brien's three-year-old, the Queen's Vase and Irish Derby winner, 15lb.

Weight, they say, stops trains, and Stradivarius is not much bigger than a pony but he has become one of the great stayers and even the Irish Derby winner may struggle to match his turn of foot at the end of two miles.

"At Ascot, he handled soft ground well," trainer John Gosden explained. "It surprised me because he has quite small feet and he has a quick, easy action. Did the race have its normal depth? Possibly not. But he showed great style.

"When you put the lead in the saddle and you're going two miles with it, it's a bundle of weight. We got 13lb from Big Orange when Stradivarius won his first Goodwood Cup, so we benefited that year - now he has got to give 15lb away, the boot is on the other foot.

"I personally think it's the greatest challenge probably in his life."

Mark Johnston is often the man to follow through this meeting. However, it is hard to see his Nayef Road, runner-up in the Gold Cup, reversing that form, even back down in trip, though he should win a lesser share of the prize money. It is another Yorkshire trainer, John Quinn, who can win the Lennox Stakes with Safe Voyage, which won at Epsom on Derby day despite not handling the track. His biggest danger may be Duke Of Hazzard, a winner at the meeting for the past two seasons.

The Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes has a tremendous strike rate for producing good horses. Last year, it was won by Pinatubo but its honours board includes Shamardal, Sir Percy, Olympic Glory, Toormore, Highland Reel and Galileo Gold. Battleground will be a warm order on the back of winning Ascot's Chesham Stakes.

But Youth Spirit, a winner over six furlongs at Newmarket, can improve again.