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Superstar Stradivarius bids to join the all-time greats in stellar Gold Cup

When you are that good, we take winning for granted. It becomes a foregone conclusion. Arrive. Run. Win. Simple really.

Only it is never as simple as a string of ones in the form book suggests and, in order to make it seven wins from his last seven starts, Stradivarius must beat a Melbourne Cup winner, a St Leger winner, an Irish St Leger winner and a Chester Cup winner. Wait, there's more.

There is the runner-up from last year's Derby, the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier winner and a horse who scared the living daylights out of him in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day last October, while the three rags according to the market are all previous Group winners.

Stradivarius, photo Liesl King

Stradivarius is special but 2019 Gold Cup day could be the day when he joins the immortals. 

Stayers not only run for longer but their golden moments tend to last longer in our memory bank too. It seems like only yesterday when Yeats won his fourth Gold Cup, but already it's the tenth anniversary. Double Trigger wasn't 24 years ago, was it Jason? And it couldn't possibly have been 40 years since Le Moss won his first one, could it?

Stayers have all those attributes we crave as humans. Physical strength, mental toughness and a never-say-die attitude. Stradivarius would have been beaten on his last two starts if he didn't have all three.

He looked beaten for a few strides in the Yorkshire Cup last month and Thomas Hobson had him in an awful pickle entering the final furlong of the Long Distance Cup last October. He somehow managed to escape unscathed from both battles. Remarkable. 

That's what the great stayers do. They find ways of winning, even when things don't go their way. Stradivarius can do workmanlike or wonderful in equal measure. He can be flamboyant or efficient. He can be whatever he likes at Ascot so long as that famous white blaze of his is in front after two miles, three furlongs and 210 yards.

Cross Counter had the tenacity to come from almost last to first in a Melbourne Cup, so he won't back down easily. Capri has already beaten Stradivarius in the 2017 St Leger, but Ryan Moore obviously believes Flag Of Honour is better than him. Throw in Dee Ex Bee, who got closer to Masar than anything else in last year's Derby, and you have got yourself a glorious Gold Cup. 

Stradivarius might win it, and you might think it is just another one next to his name, but he will need to be one of the true greats to keep his winning sequence going. Let's not take him for granted.

If the name Paddy Twomey is unfamiliar to you, get to know it quickly.

The shrewd, softly spoken Tipperary trainer has a 27 per cent success rate in Ireland this season and is showing a healthy level-stakes profit.

His only previous runner out of Ireland was Van Der Decken, who finished fifth to Caravaggio in the 2016 Coventry Stakes. Three years later and he returns with the hot favourite for the Norfolk in the shape of Sunday Sovereign.

Beating Arizona by three lengths in a Curragh maiden doesn't look bad form now, does it? And his smooth seven-length success on soft ground at Tipperary was very easy on the eye.

Billy Lee has a really good Royal Ascot record, having won the Britannia in 2013 on Beauty Flame [then called Roca Tumu] and last year's Royal Hunt Cup on Settle For Bay. He has made his best start to an Irish Flat season too with 22 winners already on the board.

It is safe to say the Sunday Sovereign team arrive in top form.

If you are struggling for winners and low in confidence, perhaps the Hampton Court Stakes (3.05) will come to your rescue.

There have been four winning favourites in the last decade, three in the last six years, and the biggest-priced winner since 2013 was Hawkbill at 11-2.

Aidan O'Brien has dominated the three-year-old middle-distance division this season and would have had umpteen options for this race, so the fact he relies on French Derby fourth Cape Of Good Hope speaks volumes. He won the race 12 months ago with Hunting Horn too.
Irish-trained fillies have ruled the Ribblesdale Stakes (3.40) in recent years with the prestigious prize going for export in six of the last eight runnings.

Jim Bolger began the Irish benefit in 2011 with Banimpire, while Dermot Weld won it in 2012 with Princess Highway and Curvy did the business for David Wachman in 2015.

The other three winners, as you might have guessed, were trained by Aidan O'Brien thanks to Bracelet (2014), Even Song (2016) and Magic Wand (2018).

It is worth noting last year's winner Magic Wand finished fourth in the Oaks before taking this. O'Brien's likely favourite Fleeting was a fast-finishing third in this year's Oaks.

David Menuisier is seeking a first Royal Ascot winner and it didn't look like he would get a chance to break his duck at all this week.

That all changed just 24 hours before the Britannia Stakes (5.00) as Migration, number 31 on the racecard, got a last-gasp call-up to one of the hottest handicaps of the season.

There is more good news for Menuisier. Nine of the last ten winners of the Britannia were officially rated 87-96, six of the last seven winners had run no more than five times, seven of the last ten winners had already won a handicap and seven of the last nine winners finished in the top two when last seen.

The only one who fits the bill on all five counts? You guessed it. Migration.

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