By Ed McNamara
All eyes were on Stradivarius, but when Joe Fanning looked back with 100 yards to go, he couldn’t see him. Unlike the superstar chasing a record-tying fourth consecutive Gold Cup, Fanning’s mount had enjoyed a perfect trip, and Subjectivist coasted by five lengths Thursday in Royal Ascot’s most revered race.
The 7-year-old Stradivarius finished fourth, 7 1/4 lengths back. The 4-5 favorite lost for the fourth time in his last five starts as he failed to equal Yeats’ streak from 2006-2009.
Frankie Dettori kept Stradivarius in mid-pack on the rail, and they were eighth a mile into the 2 1/2-mile marathon. Entering the stretch, they were jammed up near the back of the 12-horse field. Subjectivist, who had stalked throughout in second, kicked clear with a quarter mile to go and was gone. Finishing second was the filly Princess Zoe, a 28-1 shot, and third was Spanish Mission. The patented late surge by Stradivarius never came.
It was the fourth Gold Cup victory for trainer Mark Johnston, who excels with distance specialists.
“It was absolutely perfect,” Johnston said. “Stradivarius was a long way back and he had a lot to do. Joe couldn’t have gotten our horse more relaxed. He came to the final turn and hadn’t been asked to run.”
It was by far the biggest win in the 34-year career of the 50-year-old Fanning, who received a rare salute from his peers. As he brought back Subjectivist to be unsaddled, the riders who hadn’t been in the Gold Cup applauded. “Oh, it was nice to see the lads come out and welcome me in,” he said.
“I was pretty confident in his stamina all the way. He’s been a great horse this year and he keeps improving.”
Few expected Stradivarius to go down without a fight, but the Racing Post’s chart comment said it all: “No match for the winner.”
His trainer, John Gosden, said: “It didn’t go to plan. I thought the winner was most impressive, but we were a long way back, had the filly beside us and couldn’t get out.”
There’s a life-size bronze statue of Yeats in Ascot’s parade ring. There was speculation that Stradivarius would deserve one if he equaled the Irish champion’s record. Yeats stands alone, and perhaps he always will.
“It’s a sad day for Stradivarius, and I know what it’s like after a champion goes down like that,” Johnston said. “But it’s going to happen one day, and I’m glad it was us.”
The 4-year-old Subjectivist paid $13.90 for his third straight win after being timed in 4:20.34 on good to firm ground.
“This was a horse on the way up,” Johnston said, “a young pretender against the old guard.
“There are more valuable races at Royal Ascot, but there is no race I want to win more than the Gold Cup.”
2 more losers for Ward
American trainer Wesley Ward, an 11-time winner at Royal Ascot, dropped to 0-for-7 this week when Lucci and Nakatomi finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in the Norfolk Stakes. Lucci finished only a length behind winner Perfect Power, while Nakatomi was 5 3/4 lengths back.
Around the track
Mohaafeth (11/8) was the only favorite to come through on longshot Thursday. The other winners went off at 12-1, 18-1, 5-1, 18-1, 5-1 and 18-1 … Ascot dodged most of the storm that hit southern England Wednesday night, but it was raining during the final two races. Weather.com predicted a half-inch of rain for Thursday night and a 100% chance of precipitation on Friday. Could be a big day for soft-ground specialists.