Day 3 of racing at Royal Ascot in England saw a changing of the guard in the 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup (G1).
The historic test of class and stamina served as the likely final Ascot race for legendary stayer Stradivarius, who won the Gold Cup three times from 2018-20. The eight-year-old stalwart was beaten to fourth place in the 2021 edition, but arrived at Royal Ascot Thursday with a chance to turn back the clock after winning the Yorkshire Cup (G2) in his seasonal debut.
But in the end, it was the improving Kyprios—a four-year-old half the age of Stradivarius—who stole the show. Stradivarius put up a good fight under Dettori, shifting out from behind a wall of horses and closing ground gamely down the homestretch, but Kyprios was relentless under jockey Ryan Moore. The younger stayer raced outside of rivals, took command a quarter-mile from home, and fought on to beat Mojo Star by half a length with Stradivarius another three-quarters of a length back in third position.
“It wasn’t a nice race to ride,” said Moore. “I didn’t like the position I was in. I knew I had Frankie on my inside and they were going slow up front. I had to move him to the outside and I don’t like doing that, but I felt I had to keep Kyprios going.
“He’s got there and Mojo Star has come to us, but this fella kicked in then and it was comfortable at the line. It wasn’t a true test today. I don’t think we saw the best of him. I am glad he has come over here and won—and there are plenty more good days to be had with him. It was a more complicated race than it should have been. I think he was much the best.”
As for Stradivarius, Dettori praised his mount, but noted age may have caught up to the veteran.
“The younger horses had more legs than me at the end. I had every chance to get them, but they were stronger than me,” said Dettori. “He’s been a great hero and came out flying. I had to pull out wide and the only place I could go was the outside and everything was getting tight. When I’ve pulled him out plenty of times, usually he’s got the electric turn of foot, but he’s not four anymore, he’s eight. I labored a bit at the end and I was never going to get them. He has been a star. You have to pass on the baton to the younger ones. He did his best and we’re very proud of him.”
In contrast, John Gosden—who trains Stradivarius alongside son Thady Gosden—felt the challenges of the trip may have contributed to Stradivarius’ defeat.
“I think there was no real pace. I was bit surprised from having been in the box seat that we dropped back so far,” said Gosden. “The problem is when they sprint, you had to come wide to get a run and he had to come widest of all. He had a chance the last furlong and the race slipped on him. They had gone a steady pace. Stradivarius is a great horse to get here and to now run in five Gold Cups. To have the longevity he has had. He came back in and had a neigh, so he seems happy. Great credit to the horse and the owner/breeder to keep him racing. There are younger horses there that are first and second. I just wish we had been a little handier and not had to go through a wall of horses.”
Burning Victory, Tashkhan, Princess Zoe, Bubble Smart, Alignak, and Earlofthecotswolds completed the order of finish. Trueshan scratched due to unsuitable ground conditions.
A son of Galileo fresh off a victory in the 1 3/4-mile Saval Beg Levmoss S. (G3), Kyprios has gone 3-for-3 this season for trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has won the Gold Cup a record eight times. With his abundant stamina and obvious talent, Kyprios looms as an obvious successor to Stradivarius.
“Ryan gave Kyprios a great ride. He saved him, held him, and controlled the race,” said O’Brien. “I am delighted for everyone. It’s brilliant. The horse was very brave.
“We always thought he was courageous, although you never know what will happen when you go past two miles. He had the same tenacity that he showed all the other times and Ryan was very strong on him. When he wanted him to go, he did. It was great Stradivarius was here. It makes these races even more special and incredible. I’m delighted for all the lads and the team.
“Kyprios is easy to train. He is light-bodied and a good mover. He looks after himself and they are all the things that he will need. He did it today and hopefully he can do it in the years to come. He could go to Goodwood next or something like the Irish St Leger (G1). We’ll see how he is. I think everybody would want to aim him back here next year. We’ll see how he comes out of this, but those are the sort of races we could target.”
Norfolk S. (G2)
The Gold Cup may have been Thursday’s feature event at Royal Ascot, but the Norfolk S. (G2) arguably held more significance for U.S. racing fans. The six-furlong sprint for juveniles serves as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), a prize claimed in upset fashion by The Ridler.
Overlooked at 44-1 in the World Pool, and a 50-1 longshot among bookmakers while exiting an unremarkable third-place finish at Beverly, The Ridler outran all expectations in the Norfolk. The Richard Fahey trainee was never too far back, and despite drifting significantly through the final furlong, The Ridler edged away late under jockey Paul Hanagan to defeat favored Walbank by 1 3/4 lengths.
The finish was not without controversy as The Ridler’s drifting interfered with Brave Nation and Crispy Cat. Brave Nation in particular was forced to steady between rivals, arguably causing him to slip back to fourth place behind Crispy Cat. But the results remained unchanged following a stewards’ inquiry, with Bakeel, Pillow Talk, The Antarctic, Thunder Moor, Redemption Time, and Jungle Fever completing the order of finish.
“He is still very green and a baby. I put my stick down to get him straight, so I could not have done much more, noted Hanagan.”
Following the race, Fahey indicated The Ridler would stick to sprinting for the time being.
“We will get Ascot out of the way before we think about the future, but we’d think about a flat six furlongs,” said Fahey. “He’s quite a quick horse; you’d like to think of something like the Prix Morny, because if you’ve got a Group 2, you’ve got to think of a Group 1.”
Ribblesdale S. (G2)
Slightly more than an hour after the Norfolk, half a dozen sophomore fillies traveled 1 1/2 miles in the Ribblesdale S. (G2). Bettors were keen to back flashy Goodwood stakes winner Sea Silk Road, but the favorite’s stretch rally came up short as forwardly placed Magical Lagoon battled back under Shane Foley to win by half a length.
Trained by Jessica Harrington, Magical Lagoon had already proven her worth against stakes company, nabbing the Flame of Tara S. (G3) as a juvenile. The daughter of Galileo is progressing readily in the right direction and looks like a filly to follow through the summer.
“Magical Lagoon won a Group 3 as a maiden last year and she battled in that. I always knew that if she got into a battle, she’d be really tough,” said Harrington. “She’s a beautiful, powerful filly, she really is. She loves that quick ground—she really enjoys it.
“The plan was to come here and then go to the Irish Oaks (G1),” Harrington added. “All being well, that’s the plan. She’s a proper mile and a half filly.”
Hampton Court S. (G3)
Thursday’s group stakes action concluded with the 1 1/4-mile Hampton Court S. (G3) for three-year-olds. Last year’s Solario S. (G3) winner Reach for the Moon was heavily favored, but it was the lightly raced Claymore who rebounded from a last-place finish in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (G1) to spring the surprise.
Given a frontrunning ride by jockey Adam Kirby, Claymore tenaciously repulsed Reach for the Moon’s challenge to draw away in the final furlong and score by 1 3/4 lengths, giving trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam her second winner from three starters at the current Royal Ascot meet.
“It was the plan to go out in front. Claymore is in his comfort zone when he is up there bowling along in front,” said Chapple-Hyam. “He has got a huge stride. Unfortunately, last time in France he was drawn 16 of 16. He was out in the woods. It was very hard.”
Friday serves as the penultimate day of the Royal Ascot meet. Four more group stakes are on the agenda, including the Commonwealth Cup (G1) and Coronation S. (G1). The latter event will feature an appearance from reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner Pizza Bianca.