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Stradivarius hits right note in Goodwood Cup

1 Aug 2017

Andrea Atzeni guides three-year-old to victory over Big Orange

Atzeni is all smiles after winning the Qatar Goodwood Cup on Stradivarius. Picture: Racingfotos.com

John Gosden was able to savour QIPCO British Champions Series glory for the second time in four days as Stradivarius kept on strongly to overhaul front-running Big Orange and win the Qatar Goodwood Cup.

The build-up to the two-mile feature, elevated to Group 1 status this year and carrying prize-money of £600,000, had revolved around Big Orange’s attempt to make history and win three successive renewals of the race.

Last month’s Gold Cup winner made the running as usual and took most of his rivals out of their comfort zone but Stradivarius, who had won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot last month, proved three quarters of a length too strong for him in receipt of 13lb under Andrea Atzeni.

The pair pulled three and a half lengths clear of Desert Skyline who, like Stradivarius, was representing the Classic generation.

Gosden said: “Frankie [Dettori] controlled the race on Big Orange, he came up the middle, he didn’t want to be attacked hard down the rail. It was clever of him, but our fella stays well.

“I did say good luck to everyone going in, Big Orange has got a huge heart and has run with credit again, but he was running into a three-year-old now and not the older horses, who is getting 13lb from him.

“Full marks to the horse and owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen, who has put an awful lot into this game to get nice moments such as this, which don’t come along very often.

“I am always frightened when you take on the older horses with a three-year-old in a race like this, I thought he’d run well and I could see him in the frame but not necessarily winning. He has a good turn of foot, which is a good weapon in a two-mile race.

“I don’t think the three-year-olds have an enormous advantage – Enable is a brilliant filly and this is a proper stayer, you can’t come and do it without a proper horse.

Gosden now has another Champions Series race in mind for the winner.

“We go to the St Leger, which is a race that I love and it is one mile and six and a half furlongs around Donnie, which is probably a similar test as it is an open galloping track whereas here is all zig zags and bends,” he said. “He goes straight to Donnie, goes there nice and fresh.”

Atzeni, who rode four winners on the card, said: “Stradivarius was getting a lot of weight off Big Orange and is still improving. I don’t think he knows how good he is – he’s a little immature and still learning. He’ll be better next year. He doesn’t know he’s a racehorse.

“The main plan was to keep away from Big Orange – you can’t get near him because he’s a fighter. You have to race away from him. At the two-furlong marker, he was ahead of me but not going away and I knew I had him.

Big Orange battling typically bravely but could not respond in the closing stages and went down by three quarter of a length.

“I am very proud with how Big Orange ran,” Michael Bell, the trainer, said. “He laid it down there, looked like winning and then the three-year-old came and got him. He has run his heart out on ground that is softer than ideal for him. Had it been rattling firm or summer fast ground, who knows? We are talking hypothetically.

“We wanted to make history and the horse is so well in himself. He has basically done everything but win – he was beaten by an unexposed three-year-old who won well at Royal Ascot. Let’s meet him on level weights next year and see what happens.

David Elsworth, trainer of third home Desert Skyline, said: “We were pleased or even relieved he ran so well. The weight allowance helped, but he is a progressive little staying horse.”