Any lingering doubts about Stradivarius’ connection’s decision to keep him in training for the 2022 British flat racing season were quickly quashed as the legendary, fan favourite hit all the right notes in a perfectly orchestrated victory in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup at the recent Dante Festival earlier this month.

Now eight years of age, the general consensus was that Stradivarius is well past his sell-by date as far as the world of racing is concerned and that last season would be his last. But his owner Bjorn Nielsen is refusing to give up on his prized asset just yet, and that victory at York is perhaps justification if needed that his racing days aren’t over.

Despite being the short-priced favourite in the horse racing betting ahead of the Yorkshire Cup, many were expecting Stradivarius to be beaten in the one-mile, six-furlong contest. But the eight-year-old rolled back the years with a stunning performance under the guidance of his trusty rider Frankie Dettori — beating Thunderous by a length.

The ultimate goal for this season is, of course, to win a fourth Gold Cup at Royal Ascot next month — levelling Yeats’ record as the most successful horse in the prestigious race’s history. That is the reason Stradivarius has been kept in training at Clarehaven Stables with John and Thady Gosden, and that target now looks achievable.

“We’ll take it one race at a time. We’ll see how he comes out of this, but the plan has really always been the Ascot Gold Cup and this was really a prep run for that,” Nielsen said after the victory at York.

“He can quicken and has that turn of foot and he wants good ground to show it. The only race he’s ever missed in his entire life was the Goodwood Cup last year as they had 60 millimetres of rain the night before and it was heavy and we thought it wasn’t fair on him.

“Other than that, he’s never missed an engagement in seven years and if we could just get good ground at Ascot that would be fine. I’d love to see Trueshan turn up and run against us on good ground as while he’s a very good horse, we’ve always had to face him on very soft ground.”

Stradivarius certainly still has the staying ability at eight, and that turn of foot that Neilson mentioned was on show at York, as Stradivarius recorded a rapid 11-second burst in the 11th furlong of the 13-furlong race — the fastest of any horse in the race, which is an incredible feat when you factor in that he was the oldest of the five entries by two years.

It goes without saying that Trueshan and Kyprios will provide serious competition for Stradivarius no matter what the going is. The latter, trained by Aidan O’Brien, has overtaken Trueshan as the ante-post favourite after winning the Group 3 Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes at Leopardstown by 14 lengths earlier this month and the four-year-old now looks like the one to beat.

Trueshan is also in fine form.. After winning the Listed Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham on his reappearance, the Alan King-trained horse is on a run of four successive victories — two of which were at Group 1 level in the Goodwood Cup and the Prix Du Cadran at Longchamp, before he won the Group 2 Long Distance Cup on Champions Day.

Stradivarius’ form has proven to be hard to predict in recent years as well, with results often fluctuating. It’s also going to be difficult to tell how much that hard-fought win at York took out of the eight-year-old, as he won’t be seen again until the Gold Cup. A more challenging field at Ascot is another factor to consider.

There would be nothing more pleasing this season than seeing Stradivarius win the Gold Cup, but that’s easier said than done and it would likely take everything the horse has got in the tank at this stage of his career to secure that fourth triumph. We will just have to wait and see if he’s still got that fight!