Onlookers witnessed a slice of history being made at Glorious Goodwood on Tuesday as Frankie Dettori and his top-class partner Stradivarius took apart six rivals in grand style to land a fourth successive Goodwood Cup. With Enable and Stradivarius both viable options for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Dettori now has a decision to make.
Sent off as the 4/7 favourite, the victory by the Sea The Stars entire was the 15th of his career and his eighth Group One win as he registered another defeat of Nayef Road, a rival he had thumped by ten lengths when winning a third Ascot Gold Cup.
That rival was only one length adrift this time around but there is certainly an air of flattery in the result. Dettori and Stradivarius would surely have won a good deal easier had they not encountered trouble in running having found themselves hemmed in when the pace lifted and the race, which had looked a steadily run contest, turned into something of a sprint for the line in the final two furlongs.
Once in the clear, however, the response was immediate and while Nayef Road and third-placed Santiago, each in receipt of 13lbs, tried to match the thrust of the winner they had no answer. However, after the victory trainer John Gosden threw something of a curve-ball when revealing the future plans for the superstar trainer and few could have predicted the path that will be plotted by the master of Clarehaven Stables.
The path to be taken by Stradivarius could also leave big-race jockey Frankie Dettori with a huge headache and he could be forced to choose between two of his greatest partners, Enable and Stradivarius
Stradivarius to drop in trip for Arc bid
Gosden’s plan for his star stayer, rather than targeting another stayers’ Triple Crown with a bid for the Doncaster Cup, instead involves dropping Stradivarius back in trip for the Prix Foy in France which is usually held the same weekend. With all being well, this should precede a tilt at the Prix de L’Arc De Triomphe.
It’s a bold plan for the son of Sea The Stars who has really come into his own over staying trips. Gosden and owner Bjorn Nielsen feel that the superstar stayer has nothing left to prove in the staying division. They’re right, of course, and are now eyeing different goals with the six-year old.
Should Stradivarius turn up at Longchamp for the Arc, it leaves a big decision. Does he stick with the dual-Arc heroine Enable as she bids to land an unprecedented third Arc crown? Or should the mercurial Italian partner Stradivarius instead?
The Case for Stradivarius
The battle-hardened Sea The Stars entire has 16 wins under his belt when partnering with Dettori, including his most recent history-making victory in the Goodwood Cup.
Dettori has been on board for most of his most memorable victories, including his first Ascot Gold Cup triumph when Stradivarius downed crack French stayer Vazirabad and when landing the ‘Stayer’s Triple Crown’ in the 2019 campaign.
Too much shouldn’t be read into his defeat behind Ghaiyyath in the rescheduled Coronation Stakes as he needed that run over the shorter trip but, given he’s been at his best over further, it would remain a worry whether he can prove as effective over the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe trip. Indeed, he’s only tackled it twice in his career and met with defeat on each occasion.
Perhaps his best hope would be if the conditions came up really testing and there was a decent pace on to help bring abundant stamina into play; while the three-furlong long straight would give Stradivarius time to hit top gear.
It is a very big ask for one of the champion stayers of our time to drop markedly back in trip at this stage of his career. Dettori would though have a very willing, tough and able partner and no rival would fancy getting into a battle with him.
The Case for Enable
Dettori and Enable also have a long history together, with the Italian missing from the saddle on just two of the Nathaniel mare’s 17 runs under Rules, guiding her to all but one of her wins. Rab Havlin rode her on her debut victory and it would certainly be a wrench for Dettori to consider switching away as she bids to make more history with an unprecedented third Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe win.
Dettori and Enable have already entered the record books with a trio of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes wins and have been together for her most memorable victories, including the 2017 Epsom Oaks and her Breeders’ Cup Turf success.
Thoroughly versatile with regards to ground, registering wins on the all-weather as well as turf conditions ranging from good-to-firm to soft, perhaps the only doubt for Frankie might come if the ground on Arc weekend came up really testing as it was when she met with defeat behind Waldgeist.
It does seem almost infathomable though that Dettori would even consider deserting the superstar mare in a potential history-making bid and the jockey himself stated he’d remain true to Enable even in the wake of his Goodwood Cup win on board Stradivarius. Although, like anything in horse racing, there’s a lot of water still to pass under the bridge.
Enable and Stradivarius: who will he choose?
All things considered, it isn’t the easiest of choices for Frankie Dettori to make, assuming that Stradivarius comes through his Prix Foy test over the shorter trip.
While both horses have given Dettori some great memories in the saddle, the possibility of making another slice of history is likely to prove too much of a draw for the Italian to overlook, even should Stradivarius make the line-up.
We’ll get a much clearer picture in September after Stradivarius tackles his French assignment, while Enable has a potential date in the Irish Champion Stakes ahead of her before her history-making bid. Regardless, we’d expect Dettori and Enable to partner again regardless of what happens with Stradivarius.
New partner for Stradivarius?
If, as expected, Dettori were to prove loyal to Enable, then Andrea Atzeni would be the perfect choice for Stradivarius. Dettori’s fellow Italian rider is 3-3 on the Sea The Stars entire, of which two were Group One wins when guiding the star stayer to his first two Goodwood Cup wins.
Of course, Atzeni’s services for Stradivarius would depend on whether he’d be retained by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. If so, that would leave Gosden looking for a new partner for Stradivarius and it may well be former champion jockey Jim Crowley who would get the nod. That too is complicated, however, as he might be needed for any potential Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned participant.
Other names that could be touted include James Doyle and Oisin Murphy, both of whom have been used by Gosden when free. The pair also enter the frame to partner the champion stayer in his potential Arc bid, although they too might be committed to ride others with both riders often utilized by Godolphin.
Everything hinges though on Stradivarius’s participation and the Prix Foy will provide a big clue as to whether the Arc is a viable target. If he falters in France he might well swerve the Arc and go back up in trip for Ascot’s Long Distance Cup, with a possible view to matching the great Yeats’ feat of four Ascot Gold Cup wins next season.
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