Stradivarius is the best stayer of his generation, so can’t be opposed in his bid to complete another campaign unbeaten in the extended 1m 7f Group 2 Long Distance Cup at Ascot on British Champions Day this Saturday (14:10).
Trainer John Gosden will walk the course on the day of the race before giving the green light to run one of his stable stars.
Although the organisers have switched this event onto the inner course, usually used for hurdles, more rain is forecast.
As Stradivarius comes into the Long Distance Cup this year off the back one extra run compared to last season, there is a chance he won’t line-up if conditions deteriorate further.
However, if he turns up, on all known form he is simply the best around in this division. The Bjorn Nielsen owned five-year-old has won his last 10 races – all at this or Group 1 level.
Stradivarius has collected the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million bonus in each of the last two campaigns.
That means he has won the blue riband events of the division – the Gold Cup here, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup during York’s Ebor Festival – in consecutive years.
The son of Sea The Stars has also landed back-to-back Yorkshire Cups and completed the old Flat Stayers’ Triple Crown with victory in the Doncaster Cup last time out.
He even won this 12 months ago when jockey Frankie Dettori sneaked Stradivarius through a gap on the inside running rail to score on soft ground.
This intelligent animal only ever does enough to assure victory. That’s a mark of a true pro.
As he even wins when conditions aren’t in his favour, the top rated Stradivarius is a worthy 4/6 favourite with Betfair for more Long Distance Cup glory.
Kew Gardens the main danger
Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien was the last trainer to get the better of Stradivarius in this race two years ago with Order Of St George.
His Irish stable’s first string in this renewal is 2018 St Leger winner Kew Gardens.
Although the four-year-old Galileo colt hasn’t got his head in front since that Classic success, he has always shaped like a stayer but not gone up in trip.
Kew Gardens is a course winner that landed the 2018 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in ready fashion.
He was far from disgraced when nearest at the finish and a four-length seventh to Enable when down in distance for last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Subsequent races this year haven’t played to Kew Gardens’ strengths either.
Although outpaced by Morando on soft ground on reappearance at Chester’s May Festival, he still kept on to finish second.
Kew Gardens then chased Defoe home in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom.
He shaped best of all after a mid-season break in the Irish St Leger when coming with a very strong run in the final furlong, but just too late to overhaul Search For A Song.
Regular jockey Ryan Moore left Kew Gardens with too much to do, but was also giving the winner 12lb.
This almost two-mile test may be right up his street, judged on the way he finished that Group 1 race off.
Kew Gardens is 5/1 with Bethard for the Long Distance Cup and rates the main danger.
Withhold interesting each-way in Long Distance Cup
While Kew Gardens is closest to Stradivarius on ratings, the relatively lightly-raced Withhold is a proven stayer and next best according to the assessor.
Trained by the in-form Roger Charlton, the six-year-old has won his last five starts over trips of 2m or further.
While none of those have been at this elite level, Withhold has no stamina doubts and has also plundered some of the most valuable staying handicaps in Britain.
They include the 2017 Cesarewitch at Newmarket where the Tony Bloom owned gelding drew clear in the final furlong.
Withhold then made all on reappearance in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle last year to win unchallenged off 12lb higher.
The handicapper put him up a further 8lb for that success, but he again scored on reappearance under another front-running performance in the Marsh Cup at Newbury.
As Withhold looks a pattern performer in the making, going to the valuable Ebor Handicap at York off top-weight was a tough ask.
He got some black type last time out, however, when landing the Listed 2m Jockey Club Rose Bowl at Newmarket in typical style.
This obviously demands more, but the son of Champs Elysees has won with a bit of cut in the ground before.
That makes Withhold of each-way interest at a standout 12/1 with BetVictor in a Long Distance Cup renewal that is up for grabs if Stradivarius doesn’t run.