Stradivarius Ascot Gold Cup hat-trick bid hit by rain


London (AFP)

John Gosden's hopes that keeping his panama hat on would keep the rain away and help his star Stradivarius's bid for a third successive Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday have been dashed.

Overnight Wednesday 11 millimetres of rain fell on the racecourse with more due through Thursday ahead of Royal Ascot's most historic race at 1435GMT.

Gosden and Frankie Dettori can take heart that Stradivarius has never been beaten in five races further than two miles (3200 metres) -- the Gold Cup is two and a half miles -- although he has lost on his last two starts.

Kew Gardens edged him in a thrilling duel in last October's Long Distance Cup at Ascot.

Whilst Aidan O'Brien decided Kew Gardens is not in good enough shape to travel for the race Gosden will be concerned the good to soft going is the same as last October.

"Stradivarius –- I am keeping wearing my hat!" Gosden said on Wednesday after he had won the feature race the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

"I am keeping this on in the hope that it will keep the rain away.

"He does not want soft ground, if we get a lot of rain it dents that wonderful turn of foot which is his great weapon.

"I hope it remains relatively dry, if it doesn't, it opens it up and a horse like Technician comes into play."

The rain will have delighted Nayef Road's trainer Mark Johnston, who is hoping to win the race he treasures above all others at the meeting for the fourth time.

Nayef Road tuned up for the Gold Cup boosted by winning his prep race and in that four of the last six winners of the Gold Cup have been four-year-olds.

"If Stradivarius turns up in the form of last year, then he is going to be very difficult to beat," sad Johnston after winning the Royal Hunt Cup for the first time on Wednesday.

"At the same time, he is not going to go on forever, and when he does give way to a younger horse, Nayef Road is that type of horse -– a St Leger-placed horse (finished third last year), as was Double Trigger (his 1995 Gold Cup winner).

"I have always said you can't look past St Leger form when you are looking for these top stayers, so he's got all the credentials, but he's there against the old pretender, who is very hard to beat."

Six others line-up with Martyn Meade's Technician a live danger due to the overnight rain.

Charlie Appleby runs two in the Godolphin silks, 2018 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter -- fourth last year -- and Moonlight Spirit.

This year's Royal Ascot Ascot is being held under strict coronavirus-protocol conditions with the racing being held in front of an empty grandstand.