Star stayer Stradivarius 'fresh' for Ascot encore with plan to race on in 2021

John Gosden has confirmed Stradivarius will go for glory again on British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday, with the plan to race on next year.

Stradivarius, photo Liesl King

The champion trainer has decided to let the six-year-old take his chance less than a fortnight after his seventh in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, a race Gosden described as being run "rather like a Velodrome bicycle race".

Gosden said the Bjorn Nielsen-owned chestnut was fresh after not being suited by a slowly run Arc with a sprint finish and was ready to take his chance in the Qipco Long Distance Cup. But whatever his fate this weekend, racing fans and the wider public can look forward to seeing more of Stradivarius in 2021 as his handler exclusively revealed that he is to race on as a seven-year-old.

Stradivarius is a top-priced 10-11 to win the Long Distance Cup for a second time for Gosden, who also has the hot favourite for the Group 1 Qipco Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in Palace Pier.

He said: "If he had run in a regular Arc with a regular pace he wouldn't be running at Ascot, but the fact is that this year's contest was run rather like a Velodrome bicycle race.

"It was a bit like that in his trial over there too, so effectively he's gone to Longchamp twice and all he's had is a little sprint up the straight each time and not been involved in a testing race at all. Consequently, he's very fresh and well in himself at home and, after discussing it with Mr Nielsen, we've decided to let him take his chance.

"Whatever happens he'll have all winter to recover as he's to stay in training and won't run again until next May."

Gosden has seven runners across Saturday's card, including the odds-on Palace Pier, who is out to give him a third win in the past four years in the QEII.

He believes the unbeaten colt will possess the advantage of being a relatively fresh horse when he makes his first start in over two months in the straight mile contest. 

The son of Kingman is a red-hot 4-7 favourite to emulate the yard's Persuasive (2017) and Roaring Lion (2018), and is undefeated in his five outings to date including the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Palace Pier has been put aside for this contest after his subsequent triumph in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August. He has seen a racecourse in the interim, however, having enjoyed a spin before racing on the Rowley Mile last Saturday.

Gosden said: "Palace Pier breezed nicely yesterday and cantered this morning. It's been the plan to bring him to Ascot since he won at Deauville in August. As there weren't any opportunities for him here, the only other race he could have run in was the Prix Moulin, but it didn't seem to make a heap of sense to go back to France having only just been over there so that's why we've waited."

The trainer also runs recent Sun Chariot Stakes winner Nazeef in the QEII and he is two-handed in the feature Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes with Mishriff, the mount of Frankie Dettori, and Lord North (James Doyle).

On Mishriff, who is 7-2 second favourite behind Magical, Gosden said: "He's bringing French form to the table so we'll see how that stacks up, but he'll like the ground and this has been the plan since August. Lord North won the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes so knows all about the track and bypassed the Irish Champion Stakes to wait for this."

Gosden also is double-handed in the Group 1 British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes – a race he won last year with Star Catcher –with Frankly Darling, who sports the Star Catcher silks of Anthony Oppenheimer, and Mehdaayih.