Stradivarius has etched his name among the greats of middle-distance racing after winning a third Ascot Gold Cup in imperious fashion.
Despite a day of heavy rain, the John Gosden-trained six-year-old, made a mockery of predictions he may struggle on the ground by storming to a ten length victory under a masterful ride from Frankie Dettori.
Stradivarius is only the third horse to win three successive Gold Cups, emulating Sangaro (1975-77) and Yeats who won four between 2006 and 2009.
Dettori bided his time before closing on long-time leader Nayef Road and eased to an eye-catching victory.
Despite the absence of any crowds, Dettori served up his trademark flying dismount on returning to the winner’s enclosure.
“I’m so proud of the horse,” Dettori said on Thursday.
“He’ll go down as one of the great stayers. Who knows, maybe we’ll try for four next year.
“We purposely all stayed wide on the fresh ground. That helped a little bit, but nevertheless it was still very soft.
“It just shows what a fighter and how versatile he is. He’s a wonderful horse.
“You’re never on the bridle in the Gold Cup a furlong out.
“Usually everybody labours by the three, so it was an amazing feeling and a fantastic performance. The horse deserves it. I’m very proud of him
“Even with no crowd I’m quite emotional. A very proud moment.”
Former Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter ran on for third, eight lengths behind Nayef Road.
Last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up Prince of Arran finished sixth.
It was also a day to remember for trainer Roger Varian who chalked up a hat-trick of wins with Mountain Angel in the Wolferton Stakes then Molatham, who ran down Monarch of Egypt to win the Jersey Stakes.
Jim Crowley made it three for Varian when he rode his sixth winner of the week when Khaloosy took out the Britannia Stakes.
“I think I’m going to pinch myself in a minute and I’ll wake up,” Varian said.
“This is right up there (as one of the best days) as this is the hardest place to get winners so to get three in a day and four in a week is great.”
Highland Chief swooped late to win the opening race of the day, the Golden Gates Handicap, to give dual trainers Paul and Oliver Cole a landmark success.
The father-son combination became the first trainers to be jointly credited with a winner at the Royal meeting as their charge defied top weight pip Tritonic in the final 200 metres.
It was also a maiden Ascot victory for jockey Rossa Ryan.
Ryan Moore returned to the winners’ circle when after piloting $2.75 favourite Battleground to a routine victory in the Chesham Stakes for juveniles.
Hayley Turner rode big-priced outsider Onassis to victory at $33 in the Sandringham Stakes.