October 17, 2021

Royal Ascot: Subjectivist upsets Stradivarius with powerful Gold Cup performance

Subjectivist winning the Gold Cup (G1) - Ascot Racecourse/Megan Ridgwell/Racenews
Subjectivist winning the Gold Cup (G1) - Ascot Racecourse/Megan Ridgwell/Racenews

In a moment that could be viewed as the passing of a torch, up-and-coming Subjectivist rolled to a blowout victory in the Gold Cup (G1) on Day 3 of Royal Ascot, while three-time defending winner Stradivarius finished out of the money in his bid for a fourth consecutive Gold Cup trophy.

Stradivarius was heavily favored at 5-6 to emulate Yeats as the only four-time winner of Ascot’s historic 2 1/2-mile test of stamina. But the seven-year-old veteran failed to kick on after getting boxed in behind rivals on the final bend, rallying only mildly to finish fourth.

Meanwhile, Subjectivist continued his ascent through the staying ranks with a powerful performance. The four-year-old son of Teofilo entered the Gold Cup off victories in the 1 15/16-mile Prix Royal-Oak (G1) and two-mile Dubai Gold Cup (G2), giving the Mark Johnston trainee a progressive record with plenty of upside.

In the Gold Cup, Subjectivist proved his stamina over an even longer distance. Perfectly ridden by jockey Joe Fanning, Subjectivist tracked longshot Amhran Na Bhfiann for much of the race, then seized a clear advantage rounding the final turn. Indeed, Subjectivist blew the race wide open at this juncture, opening a daylight advantage while his rivals struggled to keep pace.

From there, the race was over. Princess Zoe and Spanish Mission gamely gave chase down the lane, but neither drew within hailing distance of Subjectivist, who powered to a five-length victory in 4:20.28.

“We thought in the wintertime that Subjectivist was so much on the up,” said Johnston. “He won in France last season on heavy ground and people were thinking he needed heavy ground to excel. But then he went onto Dubai and that was the big question mark, could he go on fast ground? That was the performance of his life, and I couldn’t be confident coming here that he could replicate it after such a long time off and a big gap in between. I knew if he could reproduce that, he would take an awful lot of beating.”

Princess Zoe edged Spanish Mission by half a length for the runner-up spot, followed by Stradivarius. Emperor of the Sun, Nayef Road, Santiago, Serpentine, Twilight Payment, Rip Van Lips, Amhran Na Bhfiann, and Ben Lilly completed the order of finish, albeit well behind the top four.

Subjectivist’s preparations for the Gold Cup did not unfold without incident, as Johnston recounted after the race.

“I thought he was the best horse we’ve taken Stradivarius on with, but we had a scare just after the Dubai race, so he missed quite a bit of work after that,” said Johnston. “The preparations have not been smooth in that 45 minutes after his run in Dubai, he was filling in one leg and we thought that would be serious. When he came home from Dubai, he had scans at Newmarket, so he had lots of time off. Then in Middleham last week, he skinned both knees and one hock. The only positive was that Attraction did a similar thing before winning the (2003) Queen Mary (S. [G2]) and that didn’t stop her either.”

Tentative plans call for Subjectivist to target the Goodwood Cup (G1) during the summer, with a long-term goal for returning to the Middle East for rich races in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

Ribblesdale S.

Trainers John and Thady Gosden may have missed out with Stradivarius, but they did secure a significant consolation prize earlier in the afternoon. Loving Dream was a longshot to win the 1 1/2-mile Ribblesdale S. (G2) after finishing fifth in a listed stakes at Lingfield, but the daughter of Gleneagles nevertheless proved best under jockey Robert Havlin, forging to victory by three-quarters of a length over Eshaada.

Securing a tracking position in second place was the key to Loving Dream elevating her game at Royal Ascot.

“At Lingfield, we were aware that we went too slow,” said John Gosden. “Frankie (Dettori) rode Loving Dream and we said she needs more pace. Robert committed early today and made best use of her stamina.”

“Loving Dream is a filly that likes to use her stride,” Havlin concurred. “I committed to go forward and William Buick (riding Dubai Fountain) done the same. We went quick down the hill and then she quickened from the four to the three-furlong pole. She then just kept finding and finding—it was a gutsy performance.”

Norfolk S.

The event of greatest note to North American racing fans was likely the Norfollk S. (G2), which serves as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) at Del Mar. A large field of 15 promising juveniles faced the starter for the five-furlong dash, with Hamilton maiden winner Perfect Power rallying to victory by a head over Go Bears Go.

Paul Hanagan rode the 14-1 longshot to victory on behalf of trainer Richard Fahey. Project Dante and Cadamosto rounded out the top four, while American raiders Lucci and Nakatomi (both trained by Wesley Ward) settled for fifth and eighth place, respectively.

“The Norfolk S. has been a bogey race for me,” said Fahey. “I have been second in it a few times and as they flashed past I thought we got beat. I’m just glad we got there. I got emotional for a couple of seconds, I’m getting soft in my old age.”

Hampton Court S.

Rounding out the group stakes action on Day 3 of Royal Ascot was the Hampton Court S. (G3), a 1 1/4-mile test for three-year-olds. Mohaafeth, who withdrew from the Epsom Derby (G1) due to soft ground, relished the good-to-firm conditions at Royal Ascot and delivered as the 11-8 favorite under jockey Jim Crowley.

The only drama came when the son of Frankel drifted down the lane and interfered with Roman Empire, who settled for second by 1 3/4 lengths. But the incident was mild, and the stewards left the results unchanged.

Trained William Haggas indicated Mohaafeth will stick to good ground and distances of 1 1/4 miles or shorter in the future, the same conditions he encountered at Ascot.

“I never thought it was the wrong decision (to miss Epsom), but obviously I was pleased when Jim came in and said it was absolutely the right decision not to run in the Derby,” said Haggas. “I think he showed he wasn’t actually powering away today, so maybe that’s his trip or even shorter, never mind longer.

“Jim said ‘I think this is his trip’. So, we will stick to a mile and a quarter, and I guess if ever we go one way, it might be shorter.

The penultimate day of racing at Royal Ascot is slated for Friday, when four more group stakes—including the Coronation S. (G1) and Commonwealth Cup (G1)—will take place. The latter event will see Wesley Ward’s talented filly Campanelle take on males in search of her second victory at Royal Ascot, following the 2020 Queen Mary S. (G2).