After a hard-fought victory at Glorious Goodwood, John Gosden announced that his four-time Goodwood Cup winner, Stradivarius, will be aimed at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later this year.
The message has surprised many but also provided yet more excitement ahead of the race, as the line-up becomes greater and greater. However, racing fans are asking questions of the owner’s decision. Will he get the trip? Who rides him? Can he stop Enable from making history?
The son of Sea The Stars has been one of the key figures in flat racing over the past few years, winning countless Class 1’s. Even in defeat he has never finished outside the top three at the top level. His recent victories have led to racing fans declaring the 10-length 2020 Gold Cup winner as one of the greatest stayers of all-time. However, the Arc will truly put Stradivarius to the test as he drops in trip from 2m to 1m4f.
Assuming Gosden’s main man meets expectation in his ‘Arc warm-up’, the Prix Foy, the only question will be whether Stradivarius has the speed and ability to silence the doubters and compete for the crown with joint-favourites Enable and Love, with the former looking to right her wrongs and secure a record-breaking third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Another key aspect of the race will be who is riding Stradivarius considering that his regular jockey, Frankie Dettori, is likely to be onboard Enable. Rab Havlin has ridden him twice previously and Andrea Atzeni has won all three of his appearances on Stradivarius in the past, making him the likely candidate to step up in place of Dettori.
Stradivarius is known for his incredible stamina, so the drop in trip on the surface doesn’t look like it will suit but he has always been one to prove the doubters wrong so it shouldn’t be assumed that the superstar won’t feature. On his comeback run in the Coronation Cup (1m4f), Stradivarius could only manage third behind the superb front-runner Ghaiyyath and 2019 Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck. This can easily be forgiven due to how immense the level of competition was after a 136 day break but the Coronation Cup run may give some indicators as to how John Gosden may want his runner to go about his work in the race.
Stradivarius looked quite taken by the pace at which Ghaiyyath went off, so he potentially may opt to role reverse and front-run in the Arc. It goes without saying that Stradivarius can stay, so if he were to set a blistering pace for the others and opt for the ‘catch me if you can’ approach, the likes of Love and Enable may not be able to keep up. This approach would probably be best executed on testing conditions, really giving his opposition a true test.
If they opt to drop Stradivarius into the pack then the main concern would be whether he can keep up with the favourites if they get first run on him, especially Love who has an unbelievable turn of foot. With that in mind, the way Stradivarius picked up when finally given a clear run this week was impressive and the one length victory could easily been ten if he had found an unobstructed path on the straight.
A huge concern for Stradivarius fans will be how he copes in the early stages of the race if they choose not to front run. The pace difference from a 2m to a 1m4f is significant and so the high tempo could catch the long distance specialist off-guard, however his run in the Prix Foy should be the best indicator of how he may get on as that race is likely to be quite competitive as well.
In comparison to his potential competitors, Stradivarius is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of travelling. He moves through the gears with ease and can quicken the tempo with just a flick of the reigns. The crown of having the sharpest turn of foot, however, definitely sits on the head of Love. Her two performances this year in the 1000 Guineas and Oaks have been emphatic, leaving her opposition for dust on the home straight, especially when stepped up to the 1m4f trip.
However, Enable is probably the biggest concern to both Love and Stradivarius, she has won the race twice before and is fully aware of what is required to leave Longchamp victorious again. Enable is a smooth traveller and one of the greatest mares of all-time so she shouldn’t be underestimated, her switch of gear can sometimes need some slight encouragement but Dettori knows how to get the best out of her and one would imagine that the Italian great will have been looking forward to the Arc all year.
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