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STAR stayer Stradivarius will embark on his seventh season in training on Friday when he lines up at York Racecourse for the Paddy Power Yorkshire Cup.

The eight-year-old has already won the Group 2 race twice, alongside three other course victories in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup. Indeed his tally of five triumphs at York is only bettered by Copper Knight, who will be sent in search of a seventh course success tomorrow in the Paddy Power-sponsored sprint handicap, due off at 1.50pm.

Friday’s mile-and-six-furlong Paddy Power Yorkshire Cup is the first race in a three-part programme for the John and Thady Gosden-trained chestnut.

“Yorkshire Cup, Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and Goodwood Cup was always the plan for this year,” said John Gosden, who gave a fascinating insight into how he and the team at Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket have gone about preparing the evergreen Stradivarius for his latest campaign.

Gosden said: “It’s a very different thing training an eight-year-old full horse as to training an eight-year-old gelding. He’s an eight-year-old stallion if you like – and to that extent I try and do everything right by the horse.

“He still enjoys his training but he knows it all backwards now. Rather like an old prize fighter coming back into the ring, it’s the getting fit and up for the fight – it’s not as easy as it used to be when he was younger. So, I would expect him to be benefitting from the race.

“I’m certainly not giving him hard, hard works at home – he’s too old for that. To that extent I don’t want everyone there thinking he’s going to necessarily go and win another Yorkshire Cup. I’d just like to see him run a race that acts as a platform going forward and chose this race because it’s closer to Royal Ascot rather than going to the Sagaro, which we did last year.”

As a seasoned performer with 19 victories from his 32 starts, Stradivarius has significant popularity up and down the country among racegoers. Understandably he is also a real favourite within Clarehaven after a glittering career in which he has already won three Gold Cups and four Goodwood Cups along with his five York triumphs et al.

Gosden said: “We were lucky to have had Enable here as a six-year-old mare racing at the top level. We’re lucky with him. He’s an eight-year-old full horse running at the top level. Yes of course everyone enjoys them, being around them. They become friends to everyone here. “But,” adds Gosden, concluding with a wry chuckle, “I think we might be saying this will be his last year…”

Stradivarius will face four rivals in the £175,000 Paddy Power Yorkshire Cup (3.35pm).

The three-day Dante Festival at York Racecourse opens today Wednesday 11 May and runs to Friday 13 May inclusive.

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