Stradivarius the superhorse is Goodwood-bound
He's won three Goodwood Cups and now three Ascot Gold Cups - next in Stradivarius's sights is a record fourth of the Goodwood trophies.
The superstar stayer was simply imperious at Royal Ascot as he won the G1 Gold Cup for the third consecutive time for owner Bjorn Nielsen, trainer John Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori.
The six-year-old Sea The Stars horse joins Sagaro (1975, 1976, 1977) as a triple Gold Cup winner with only four-time scorer Yeats (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) having won the two and a half mile staying showpiece more.
Add his unique Goodwood Cup treble to that - he is the only horse to have won that prize three years in a row - and you can see why Goodwood bosses are so delighted that another trip to the South Downs is planned at the end of July. He'll be there, all things being equal, on day one of this year's festival.
Today saw Stradivarius score by 10 lengths, the most decisive of his career. Having moved up effortlessly on the bridle behind long-time leader Nayef Road, Stradivarius went right away in the final furlong and won as he liked. Nayef Road held on for second, eight lengths clear of Cross Counter.
Trainer John Gosden said: "I had to have an excuse ready [the ground] in case I messed up the training and I get the blame as the trainer.
"Sagaro was trained by a great friend of mine, Francois Boutin, and ridden by Lester Piggott. I remember watching all his races and he was something. Yeats was a phenomenon. To have a horse mentioned in that bracket is what it is all about.
"We are very proud to have won the race three times and it is great for the owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen. He is passionate about his breeding and broodmares. He has been trying to breed a Derby winner, but he has got a very good Gold Cup horse.
"For him, it is profoundly fulfilling for him as much as it is for us - it is a pity he can't be here today. We have been on the phone quite a lot before the race and already talked after the race.
"Stradivarius is quite a character. I must change my aftershave, as he got quite coltish whilst I was saddling him. I must have overdone the aftershave or something. He is quite a noisy character and he was having a shout and play out there - he does think life is a bit of fun and when you win races like this, I suppose it is.
"He showed me that the hard race he had at Newmarket had not flattened him. When he was that fresh when I was saddling, I thought that the bounce factor was under control.
"It was a superb performance today from Stradivarius. I think the benefit of running in the Coronation Cup in a track record time meant he was fully fit. I was concerned about the bounce factor and him maybe not being fully fit, but he was full of himself saddling.
"I was just pointing out that he has beaten the great Vazirabad, Order Of St George, Torcedor, Dee Ex Bee - you go through and it isn't bad horses which he has beat you know.
"He has that exciting thing which is a turn of foot. He is a bit of a mate, as he lives below the guest bedroom. When Bjorn Nielsen comes to stay and opens the window, Stradivarius is just there looking at him.
"He has beaten some good horses in his time. People have tried to criticise the opposition, but he has put them away with that turn of foot and he has even done it on this ground."
Asked whether Stradivarius would return a tilt at a joint-record equalling fourth Gold Cup next year, Gosden replied: "I am not sure, that's Bjorn's decision - the way he liked my aftershave I am not sure!
"We will look towards the Goodwood Cup and a fourth win there. He has won three of them already. We will have a look at that and if we run there, we might then take a pull. There is talk of running in an Arc. He ran brilliantly in the Coronation Cup and maybe an Arc on autumn ground is not out of the question."
Dettori, himself a favourite at Goodwood, who has now won the Ascot Gold Cup eight times (Lester Piggott holds the record number of Gold Cup wins, with 11), said: "Tremendous. I was worried about the rain; they were talking about the Martyn Meade horse [Technician] a lot, it was a concern, and he actually really surprised me because he went like a hot knife through butter, really.
"I had everybody covered by the four, then was surprised that I didn't have anyone to challenge me. It is always a scary moment when you get to the furlong marker whether you will pick up or not, but he did and stretched away by 10.
"I was trying to use the horse in front of me as a reference point, but I didn't want anyone to pounce on me quick, so with my first glance I saw James Doyle [Cross Counter] off the bridle, and I couldn't see Oisin [Murphy] on the grey horse [Technician], and then he was in trouble as well, so I thought I would leave them behind and just ride my race to get Ryan Moore [Nayef Road]. I was surprised to see that they were all spent forces by then.
"I am so proud of the horse. He is a joy to be around. He will go down as one of the great stayers like Yeats and Sagaro and who knows, maybe we will try for the four [wins] next year. Well done to Bjorn [Nielsen, owner and breeder] and John Gosden to have him so good today. Even with no crowd, I am quite emotional. It is a very proud moment. Bjorn, if you are watching, let's go for it!
"Stradivarius is a wonderful horse. You never ever are on the bridle in the Gold Cup a furlong out, because usually everybody labours by the three. So, it was an amazing feeling, and a fantastic performance.
"One day when I am sitting in my rocking chair, to say I rode the horse who won three Gold Cups in a row - that's a big number. I am very proud of it.
"I have ridden some great horses, and he will go down as one the great stayers, definitely my best stayer.
"I am very proud of the horse, as he has given people so much joy. He is such a character and wears his heart on his sleeve. It is great to have him around.
"Does the fact that I have now won eight Gold Cups mean I am old, or I have been lucky in the race...?"