When Bjorn Nielsen, his owner/breeder, retired Stradivarius to stud as an eight-year-old at the end of 2022, he had won a record 18 European Group races on the Flat, plus made the frame in another ten. His pace and ability to keep up the gallop as others wilted made for a potent combination that overwhelmed opposition time and again at the highest level. Most of his wins, usually achieved by swooping from off the pace, came under Frankie Dettori, although Robert Tart, Rab Havlin and Andrea Atzeni also enjoyed victories on him.
In addition to three successive Gold Cup victories at Royal Ascot, he won a record-breaking four Goodwood Cups, plus three Yorkshire Cups, three Lonsdale Cups, two Doncaster Cups, a QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, a Sagaro Stakes and a Queen’s Vase. And he had won the hearts of all racing fans long before his final race, when beaten a neck by another supreme stayer, Kyprios, in an epic renewal of the 2022 Goodwood Cup.
If all that were not enough, he was in his prime at a time when Weatherbys Hamilton, the insurance broker, offered a £1 million bonus to any horse who won four top staying races in the same season, including the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup. Many scoffed at the notion, not least because no horse had
previously won the designated programme of contests. But they had bargained without Stradivarius, who achieved the feat at the first attempt in 2018.
Weatherbys Hamilton took a view that lightning could not strike twice and offered the same incentive the following year. Remarkably, Stradivarius made them pay for a second time during a glorious ten-race sequence when he was invincible. Having dished out £2 million, divided between the owner, trainer, jockeys and stable staff, the firm resisted dangling the carrot a third time.