Friday: 3.35 York
Paddy Power Yorkshire Cup (Group 2) | 1m6f | 4yo+ | ITV4/RTV
Frankie Dettori is famous for flying dismounts and winning smiles, but he has warned there could be tears this season.
He knows the emotions will flow as outstanding stayer Stradivarius embarks on what is likely to be a farewell tour.
Bjorn Nielsen’s three-time Gold Cup winner has captured the hearts of the racing community in a way that is rare for a Flat horse. Last season, he sparked scenes of wild celebration when battling to victories in the Lonsdale Cup here and the Doncaster Cup.
Expect more of the same should he make a successful return to York in a race that has long been the first target for his seventh season in training. He is going in search of an 18th Group win and if he can pull it off then it would be a new record for a horse trained in Europe.
"Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and Goodwood Cup was always the plan for this year," said joint-trainer John Gosden, who admits getting the eight-year-old ready to race is harder than it was.
"He still enjoys his training, but he knows it all backwards now. Rather like an old prize fighter coming back into the ring, it's the getting fit and up for the fight – it's not as easy as it used to be when he was younger. So, I would expect him to be benefitting from the race.
"I'm certainly not giving him hard work at home - he's too old for that. To that extent I don't want everyone there thinking he's going to necessarily go and win another Yorkshire Cup. I'd just like to see him run a race that acts as a platform going forward and we chose this race because it's closer to Royal Ascot rather than going to the Sagaro, which we did last year."
Dual Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe-winning stablemate Enable was denied the chance to bid farewell to her huge fan club as her final season was played out behind closed doors.
But Stradivarius will leave the stage to raucous applause and Gosden is well aware of the pulling power of Flat’s enduring stars.
The trainer said: "Yes, everyone enjoys them, being around them. They become friends to everyone. But I think we might be saying this will be his last year."
Search For A Song 'entitled to have a crack at it'
Search For A Song was a support act to Enable on her first visit to York, but she is bidding to top the bill on her return.
The Moyglare Stud's mare took the Galtres Stakes here in 2019, but she was never going to grab the headlines from the most famous horse in training, who strolled home in the Yorkshire Oaks 40 minutes earlier.
Search For A Song has gone on to Group 1 success herself since then, landing the Irish St Leger in 2019 and 2020, and has an entry in the Arc in October.
She is bidding to become the first Irish-trained winner of the Yorkshire Cup since it ceased to be a handicap in 1952, and trainer Dermot Weld said: "She's in good form. She's travelled over well and we're satisfied with her.
"It's a very good renewal. She's taking on a top class stayer, he's a wonderful racehorse, but she's entitled to have a crack at it."
What they say
Ralph Beckett, trainer of Max Vega
He ran above expectations when he won the John Porter. Although he was in good form, he was as woolly as a bear and I wasn't that confident about him running as well as he did. He likes York, as indicated by his good run in the Ebor, but equally Newbury is where he puts up his best figures.
Brian Ellison, trainer of Tashkhan
He wouldn't want the ground to dry up but he's in good form and he's improved a lot since Ascot. I'm hoping for a good run, but a mile and six is a bit short for him and this is a stepping stone to the Gold Cup, that's the main target."
Harry Herbert, managing director of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, owners of Thunderous
It's a quick turn around for him but he's been plagued with injuries and is always sluggish coming back. The run at Newmarket wasn't him and at Chester it was much more what he's about. We're really keen to get him over this sort of trip and, Stradivarius apart, the race has cut up somewhat. He's won at the course and if you're ever going to take on Stradivarius, first time up might be it having had a couple of runs under our belt.