After a public spat between owner Bjorn Nielsen and Frankie Dettori, Stradivarius will have a new jockey on board as he attempts to win his fifth Goodwood Cup (3,200m) on the opening day of the Glorious Goodwood Festival.
Dettori was heavily criticised by Neilsen and Stradivarius’ trainer John Gosden after the star stayer finished an unlucky third in the Ascot Gold Cup last time and there were some very public displays of anger in the days following the race.
Gosden was highly critical of Dettori’s performances during the big meeting and felt the rider cost him at least two winners, with the announcement that the pair “will now have a sabbatical” coming as a shock to the superstar rider.
That split lasted only a couple of weeks, with the pair patching up their differences and Dettori riding for the stable aboard Emily Upjohn in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on the weekend, but the relationship between Nielsen and one of the world’s most famous jockey remains fractured.
Following Stradivarius’ Gold Cup loss, Nielsen said to waiting reporters that “you can’t blame the horse for that” and he has made the decision to dispense with Dettori’s services despite the pair teaming up for 15 wins in their 26 races together.
Dettori’s loss is another Italian rider’s gain with Andrea Atzeni coming in for the plum mount on an eight-year old, who may no longer be the force of old but is still more than capable of cutting it at the highest level.
Atzeni has a perfect record on Stradivarius with three wins from three rides but the last of those victories came in this race four years ago and the pressure on the 31-year-old’s shoulders will be immense, with this race mooted as potentially the stayer’s last. If Stradivarius does come out on top, the temptation to retire him to stud will be immense but victory is far from a certainty.
Stradivarius’ Gold Cup conqueror Kyprios is heading the market and he is unbeaten this season. Four years younger than Stradivarius – who won his first Goodwood Gold Cup before Kyprios was even born – Aidan O’Brien’s stayer is improving fast and should again be the target as the field turns for home.
Last year’s winner Trueshan will only defend his crown if ground conditions are not too fast, while Coltrane steps up in grade following a handicap win at Royal Ascot and a Listed success at Sandown.
It may also be unwise to rule out Princess Zoe, who finished sixth in the Gold Cup at Ascot, while Away He Goes is an outsider of interest stepping back up to this distance after finishing second in the race last year.
A pair of Group Two races provide the next best contests on the card, with plenty of talented older horses contesting the Lennox Stakes (1,400m).
No crowds but Dettori’s flying dismount remains after broadcasters beg
Tom Marquand was in action in the International Jockeys’ Championship in Hong Kong this season and his mount Sacred holds every chance of beating the boys. A fantastic fifth in her first run for nearly a year in the Group One Platinum Jubilee Stakes (1,200m), the William Haggas-trained filly has won her only two starts over this distance and will be tough to beat.
The two-year-olds get their chance to showcase their ability in the Group Two Japan Racing Association Vintage Stakes (1,400m).
Holloway Boy made a fantastic start to his career when winning on his debut at Royal Ascot but he may have to give best to the impressive Dornoch Castle. A huge individual, he has won his first two races and should give a bold sight from the front.