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Nielsen sends champion stayer Stradivarius into battle again at York

York — Owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen sends his ageless superstar stayer, Stradivarius, into battle once more in Friday’s Lonsdale Cup Stakes at York.

Now eight years old, Stradivarius has dominated staying races in the UK for a long while. He boasts victories in three Ascot Gold Cups, four Goodwood Cups, three Lonsdale Cups and two Doncaster Cups.

The big plus about his chance this time is that the horse has never been beaten at York. This will be his seventh appearance at the Yorkshire track.

After his Yorkshire Cup win in May, Nielsen, who has horses in SA with trainer Justin Snaith, said he was delighted his champion had come through the race unscathed.

“It’s a relief because he is eight years old and you never know what is going to turn up,” said Nielsen.

“No matter what they say at home — and they say he’s still enthusiastic and everything else — you never really know until they get here.”

Nielsen, who won the 2011 St Leger with Masked Marvel, was full of praise for trainer John Gosden and his team.

“They can’t train him like they did last year and the way before. They’ve had to change things up because he’s like all of us — he wants to sit back and have an easier life!”

Brought up in SA, Nielsen got the racing bug early in life and was captivated by the exploits of champion Sea Cottage, who won 20 of his 24 starts.

Then the family moved to Epsom, England, home of the Derby.

“It was a magical time as I’d go and watch Lester Piggott exercising Vincent O’Brien’s horses around Tattenham corner and down the home straight,” reflected Nielsen.

With trainer Aidan O’Brien deciding against Goodwood Cup winner Kyprios on Friday, the danger to Stradivarius will once again be Alan King’s stayer, Trueshan. The market has the gelding priced at 9-4 with Stradivarius favourite at 11-10.

Racing fans will be hoping King runs Trueshan who needs soft going — he will be praying the predicted thunderstorms arrive to change the going from his current status of firm.

If Trueshan is taken out of the race, one would say the way is clear for another lap of honour by the champion stayer. It would leave Andrew Balding’s charge, Coltrane, as his chief opponent. His ante-post price is 9-2.

Andrea Atzeni, never beaten on Stradivarius, got the ride at Goodwood and again on Friday as a result of Frankie Dettori’s ride on Gosden’s stayer at Royal Ascot. At the time, Nielsen told reporters “you can’t blame the horse here”.

Still, Nielsen said he has huge admiration for the Italian-born jockey. “Frankie remains not only Strad’s biggest fan, but a very good friend and I look forward to seeing him continue his phenomenal career as one of the greatest big-race jockeys of all time.”

Whatever his fate on Stradivarius, Atzeni could win the fifth race on Friday’s card, the Data Protection Handicap, on Roger Varian’s filly Shampion.

There was plenty to like about the daughter of Shamardal’s four-lengths win at Windsor and the filly looks worth a decent punt at around 5-1. In early betting, the favourite is William Haggas’s representative, Amanzoe, at 7-2.