John Gosden spoke up in favour of staying horses after the Goodwood Cup here on Tuesday and, thanks to the success of his magnificent chestnut Stradivarius in the day’s feature race, he will not argue an easier case all season. For a moment, just over a furlong from home, the front-running Torcedor seemed to have the Ascot Gold Cup winner in trouble, but Stradivarius rose to the challenge to chase him down and win by half a length, keeping alive his chance to win a £1m bonus at York next month in the process.
Torcedor is likely to line up against Stradivarius once again in the Lonsdale Cup at York, the last leg of a four-timer that began in the Yorkshire Cup at the same track in early May. With Stradivarius set to carry a 3lb penalty on the Knavesmire, Tuesday’s form suggests that there will be even less to choose between the two horses on 24 August, and Stradivarius may need to improve once again to secure the seven-figure bonus.
The sight of Stradivarius and Torcedor going head-to-head in the sunshine at the end of a fierce two-mile gallop around the top of the Sussex downs was a memorable way to start Goodwood’s most famous fixture. Andrea Atzeni, who rode Stradivarius to victory in the same race last year, was back in his saddle as Frankie Dettori sat out the penultimate day of a costly suspension, and judged his challenge to perfection as Colm O’Donoghue tried to run the finish out of him.
“Andrea did not give him a hard race today as he was thinking ahead [to York],” Gosden said. “Frankie will be grateful for that.
“ I’m terrified of racing becoming one-dimensional and while I love sprinters, you don’t want to watch eight sprints a day. You need these long races. The commercial world needs a certain amount of precocity and speed, but I think it’s gone too far that way, and the owner/breeder that produces horses like this is now a rare species. We’re trying to bring that back.”
Given the 3lb turnaround in the Lonsdale, it is a slight surprise to find Paddy Power offering 6-1 about Torcedor for the rematch next month. Stradivarius, meanwhile, is a 1-2 chance with the same firm.
Dark Vision was added to the betting for next year’s 2,000 Guineas after what was ultimately a comfortable win in the Group Two Vintage Stakes, but the bare form of the race offers no hint of the problems that the colt and his jockey, Silvestre de Sousa, needed to overcome on their trip around the Downs.
Even Mark Johnston, Dark Vision’s trainer, had abandoned hope after a furlong, when Dark Vision trailed the field after missing the break. A slow start is often a fatal mistake at this sharp, twisting track and the 100-30 favourite traded at nearly 20-1 in running, but De Sousa saved ground where he could and then patiently worked his way into contention in the straight before storming past Dunkerron and Confiding with a furlong to run.
“When he missed the break, I thought it was all over,” Johnston said. “At that stage, if he’d come fourth I’d have thought that I’ve got a really nice horse on my hands and I’ve just got to cure his start problem. I never thought until a furlong out that he had any chance of winning. The biggest trouble now will be keeping everyone’s feet on the ground.”
Dark Vision’s win was the eighth already this year for his 19-strong ownership syndicate, each of whom paid £7,000 for a share in three colts that the trainer “had left on the shelf unsold”. He can be backed at around 25-1 for next year’s Guineas and Johnston can expect to field some big-money offers for his colt in the weeks ahead.