At this year’s Royal Ascot (14th – 18th June), you can expect to hear a lot of talk about history. After all, it is the Platinum Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II, and it’s called “Royal” Ascot for a reason. Even if the Queen is not in attendance due to persistent health issues, the weight of history will be felt in the event. Moreover, there will be other things to make the racegoers reflect, not least the passing of legendary jockey Lester Piggott. The great man won no fewer than 11 Ascot Gold Cups, which is one of those sporting records that will surely stand for all-time.
But there will also be a lot of talk about history when Stradivarius takes to the field. The superstar horse is considered racing royalty, having helped himself to three Ascot Gold Cups (2018, 2019 and 2020), as well as a bunch of racing’s other top prizes. After winning the Yorkshire Cup earlier this year, he set a record for Group wins in Europe. But there are many remarkable things about Stradivarius, not just the wins.
A long and decorated career
Perhaps most remarkable of all is the longevity of his career. Flat racing horses rarely compete at the highest level at 8-years-old. In fact, there was talk of Stradivarius moving to the stud after his 2-year-old season. Yet, here we are nearly six years later, and Stradivarius is among the favourites in the horse racing betting for the Ascot Gold Cup 2022. He is the kind of horse that captures the imagination, and that brings people to the races. That’s hugely important in a sport that is under pressure to appeal to a younger audience.
Stradavarius mostly teams up with Franke Dettori in the saddle, with the pair having combined for the lion’s share of Stradivarius’ 20 wins. Having Dettori as a partner is crucial for the ‘brand’ of Stradivarius, as the Italian is one of those who transcend the sport. The pair will be under huge scrutiny at Royal Ascot, and you can guarantee they will represent the ‘people’s choice’ to win the Ascot Gold Cup.
Emulating Yeats is on the cards
So, just how much history can Stradivarius make at Ascot? Well, beyond extending that record number of wins for a European flat horse, grabbing his fourth Gold Cup will put him on equal footing with the all-time record holder Yeats, who won four consecutive Gold Cups from 2006-2009. Yeats also won his fourth title as an 8-year-old, and Stradivarius would be just the third 8-year-old winner of the prestigious event in its 215-year history.
But there is a broader story here, one that can resonate with fans of all sports. Despite all the success, Stradivarius is an underdog and has been so for much of his career. We aren’t talking about his odds here. Rather, his relentless ability to silence the doubters by doing things his own way. Stradivarius’ breeding was even something of a fluke. Even the fact he has yet to be gelded – something that keeps a male horse’s mind on the job – is seen as unconventional.
It would be fitting if the 2022 Ascot Gold Cup was to be the last race for the great stayer. Although, there are many other alluring prizes to be fought for across the British summer of racing. Still, fans will be hoping to see the horse and Dettori cross the finish line in first place for one more time at Ascot, capping off a Jubilee Year celebration for one of the kings of horse racing.