A great horse race doesn’t need a big field, a huge wallet or a sunny afternoon. It just takes two well-matched horses and riders who refuse to surrender and a stage or two to fight each other out, and the extended battle between Stradivarius and the Spanish Mission on the last quarter mile of the Lonsdale Stakes here next Friday deserves to be remembered as one of the best.
It felt a bit like a scripted price war, with first one horse and then the other poking their noses up ahead before Stradivarius, a great but aging champion, finally walked up to the delight of a few steps from the crowded bleachers. Spectators were well below the 100,000 who went to Knavesmire to see The Flying Dutchman defeat Voltigeur in the “big match” in 1851, but the excitement that spectatorless races were freshly remembered was just as intense.
A great race doesn’t necessarily need a famous jockey either. But it helps, and the fact that Frankie Dettori was in the winning saddle like 13 of Stradivari’s 14 career wins only added to the reception as he marched past the stands and then trotted into the winning enclosure with a perfect five-out-of-five – York record that is still intact.
“When we crossed the line and they announced the result, there was a big roar from the crowd, an explosion,” said Dettori.
“He’s only doing enough when he hits forward and William [Buick] wouldn’t go away. He passed me, I gave him back. Then he walked past me again, but I think he knows where the leash is and, boom, he put his head right on the leash.
“My heart lost a few beats to be honest, but it was a great horse race and the welcome it got was so special.”
It is unusual, to say the least, for a seven-year-old “whole” – a non-Wallach male – to compete in top races and win, but as long as Stradivarius can perform like that, his next career as a stallion is on hold.
“It was a real race that everyone could see,” said John Gosden, who trains Stradivarius with his son Thady. “It’s phenomenal. To have won four Goodwood Cups, three [Ascot] Gold Cups, now three Lonsdales, three Yorkshire Cups, one Doncaster Cup. All the miles of the race, not to mention the miles of practice.
“He’s not a horse that you train hard and I let him train himself. If you get a great footballer and he comes to your club, don’t think you will coach him by the age of 30 or 32. They will tell you what to do with your management and it’s the same, you let them train the way they want.
“He’s still enjoying his training, he’s very enthusiastic. The horse will tell us [about retirement], it is not our decision as long as he enjoys his racing and training for what he is. He is a very happy horse, he also has a very good sense of humor. As long as you have all of this, then fine, we’ll go on. The moment that seems to fade, then we stop. “
Dettori was well supported to complete a memorable double an hour later when Golden Pal, trained in the US by Wesley Ward, hit the post 5-2 for the Nunthorpe Stakes. After a typically quick pause, however, Golden Pal was unable to build a clear lead and he folded tame when Winter Power, a three-year-old filly trained by Tim Easterby a little over 20 miles off the track, went from two to the record cleanly, the first Group one win of her career.
Silvestre de Sousa rides Winter Power to victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes. Photo: Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images
“It’s incredibly fast,” said Silvestre de Sousa, the driver for King Power Racing, the owner of Winter Power. “If she hits the goals right, she’s really good. She did it here for the first time this year [in May] and I thought I hadn’t sat on anything as fast as they did.
“King Power… have a great horse for the future. This is their first Group One, so hopefully we can continue. “
Ward, who claimed prior to the race that Golden Pal was at least equal to any sprinter he trained, could not explain his poor performance.
“He’s just great and running like this for him today is a bit of a headache,” said Ward. “It kind of folded up. We’ll see what happens, but I haven’t lost faith in him, but I’m disappointed today. “
York Saturday TV Tips Guide
The Skybet Ebor Handicap is what British Flat Racing is closest to the Grand National – a race for the players as the culmination of the eponymous meeting – and it offers an almost equally bewildering array of possibilities.
Hamish is a worthy recent renewal favorite, having won the Melrose over the track and drive two years ago, but has to put his fitness to the test after 428 days off the track.
Easy Run Humanitarian could easily find enough improvement to win but also has a long absence to overcome while Sonnyboyliston looks best among Ireland trained runners but has yet to make progress from his last run.
That leaves Ilaraab, a stable companion to Hamish, as an interesting bet at around 12-1. He was a clear winner over 12 stadiums in York in May, had excuses when he was promoted to Group Two at Royal Ascot, and the additional two stadiums should add further improvement.
1.50 Soft ground made Saeed bin Suroor scratch Real world from his intended first run at the group company at Haydock last month, but conditions on the Knavesmire will please him much better as he seeks to continue his rapid progress so far this season. A runaway Royal Hunt Cup win has received multiple praise from fellow runners since then, and while the lack of an obvious pacemaker is a minor issue here, Real World was pretty much in a three-stage race of its own at Ascot.
2.05 To reach for the stars, by Derby and Arc winner Sea The Stars out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, is one of the most promising youngsters to have emerged from the Queen’s breeding business in several years, and he has gone from a close second place at the Royal Meeting to one Success developed a lot at hand in Newbury last month. The four-time runner-up there was Harrow, a winner in York on Thursday, and it will be disappointing if he can’t confirm his potential here at Reach For The Moon.
2.25 The “Ebor of the three year olds” and a deep and competitive heat for itself. Dhushan will be popular after an unlucky run at the Royal Meeting and Marshall Plan has been threatening a big run in a race of this kind for some time, but to the likely chances Oman is the eye-catcher at around 20: 1. Ralph Beckett’s gelding has improved steadily this year and set a career high last time out in Chester to win this trip.
quick start Guide
Greg Woods Saturday Tips
Sandown 1.00 Saaheq 1.30 Liamarty Dreams 2.05 Reach for the Moon 2.40 Saffron Beach 3.15 Poet Of Life 3.45 Silent Escape 4.15 Alezan
Chester 1.10 Shouldavbeenmore 1.40 Ffion 2.10 Yesyes 2.45 Sadmah 3.20 King Of Stars 3.50 Batraan 4.20 Gabrial The One
York 1.50 Real World (nb) 2.25 Oman 3.00 Primo Bacio 3.35 Ilaraab (nap) 4.10 Thunder Love 4.45 Qaader 5.20 A pint of bear
Newton Abbot 2.55 Chez Hans 3.30 Litterale Ci 4.05 Hardworking 4.40 Cremant 5.15 Dogon 5.50 Ragamuffin 6.20 No No Maestro
Chelmsford City 6.00 Aces 6.30 Femme Friendly 7.00 Ernie’s Valentine 7.30 Claim The Crown 8.00 Stylish Performer 8.30 Maysong 9.00 Mahanakhon Power
Lingfield Park 5.05 Four Feet 5.40 Homers Girls 6.15 Hoodwinker 6.50 Maketh Believeth 7.20 Love Me Likearock 7.50 Nap
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2.40 Saffron beach was a bit disappointing last time, but has had a busy start to the campaign and is returning after a six week hiatus. A return to their early season form, including a second second in the 1,000 Guineas, would likely be enough.
York 3.00 Little is gone First kiss Way into Group One companies on their last two launches. She was still within a length and a half of Snow Lantern in Falmouth, however, and will appreciate this pay easing.