Five reasons why Stradivarius won’t win on Ascot return

Stradivarius winning the Goodwood Cup in 2018

There’s plenty of racing in store for us on Wednesday, with six meetings on the agenda. The Punchestown Festival is the feature, with Ascot, Wolverhampton, Pontefract, Brighton and Chelmsford making up the supporting cast.

I’ll be focusing on Ascot, however, who host a seven-race card headlined by the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes. A trial for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the main attraction is a returning Stradivarius. Europe’s best stayer for a number of years, he makes his reappearance as a potentially vulnerable commodity. At an odds-on price, we’re happy to oppose him, and here are five reasons why.

1. He arrives under a cloud

Producing two disappointing efforts to end his 2020 campaign, Stradivarius arrives under a cloud. Well beaten in a heavy ground Arc in October, he produced a career-low RPR on Champion’s Day when last seen.

You can try to make excuses for both, with the ground at Longchamp and the quick turnaround at Ascot, but given his talent, you can’t excuse the manner of those defeats. He weakened tamely when last seen and he’s run well on the back of quick turnarounds in the past. Is that a sign that age is perhaps becoming a factor?

2. He’s now seven

Speaking of which, time is inevitable, and it catches up with all of us eventually. Horses are no exception and Stradivarius returns as a seven-year-old who could be vulnerable to younger, progressive rivals. Since 2000, just three horses aged seven have won the Sagaro, with the vast majority of recent renewals going to horses aged five or younger.

Nayef Road, Ocean Wind and Stag Horn all need to improve to beat Stradivarius, but they’re all four or five-year-olds who have the potential to improve beyond him.

3. His two-mile form at Ascot is below his best

It’s a strange statistic, but Stradivarius’ form at Ascot over two miles is below his very best. Over the 2m 4f distance at Royal Ascot, Stradivarius is unbeaten, but he’s just one from four over two miles. Those efforts are as follows:

  • 2017 Long Distance Cup – 3rd (115 RPR)
  • 2018 Gold Cup – 1st (120 RPR)
  • 2018 Long Distance Cup – 1st (117 RPR)
  • 2019 Gold Cup – 1st (121 RPR) 
  • 2019 Long Distance Cup – 2nd (121 RPR)
  • 2020 Gold Cup – 1st (125 RPR)
  • 2020 Long Distance Cup – 12th (47 RPR)

4. Nayef Road will be primed and ready

Looking at factors outside of Stradivarius’ control, Nayef Road will be primed and raring to go for his seasonal return. He’s a perfect two out of two on reappearance, winning the rescheduled Newcastle renewal last year in comfortable fashion. He can account for Prince Of Arran based on that effort and as a five-year-old, the best should be yet to come from him.

He’s been steadily progressive in the last two seasons, posting a peak RPR of 116 when beaten narrowly by Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup in July. That sort of form gives him a big chance and having just his fourth start over two miles, further improvement is more than plausible.

5. Mark Johnston targets the Sagaro

Winning the Sagaro on four occasions, including the last two renewals, Mark Johnston seems to target the race. Double Trigger won the race twice for him, taking the two most recent renewals with Dee Ex Bee and Nayef Road (rescheduled at Newcastle).

Nayef Road looks to go back to back and with form tying him closely to Stradivarius, there’s plenty to like about his chances against a Stradivarius who could need the run, given his advancing years.

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