Soft ground may knock Stradivarius out of tune
John Gosden fears soft ground for Stradivarius' repeat bid in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot - because it will blunt his "phenomenal" turn of foot.
Last year's victor arrives on a six-race winning streak, with his last defeat coming on Champions Day 2017 behind Order Of St George.
He showed his versatility on his return to action this season when coping with the drop to a mile and three-quarters - but every dry hour will aid the chance of Frankie Dettori's mount, according to his trainer.
Gosden said: "He has that great weapon for a two-and-a-half-miler in that he has a phenomenal turn of foot. If it goes soft, it blunts his turn of foot and leaves him vulnerable.
"To a degree I share the view he is becoming a people's favourite. He is in the Cup races, and people enjoy them, and he was the champion stayer last year.
"If it rains a lot he is up against it. It won't be his scene if it turns into a slog on softer ground, because he has got a lot of class, and that will favour the boys who have got to grind it out.
"I think Torcedor and the Aga Khan's horse (Vazirabad) last year set a very high standard. I don't see the standard being any higher (this time) - he was just very effective on good to firm ground. He is not a big horse but he has the ability in the last two furlongs to turn it on.
"If the ground goes on the soft side, Thomas Hobson is the horse I fear the most."
Dettori feels Stradivarius is now building up a real following.
"He breaks all the rules of a stayers' mould in that he is small and compact, and not tall and leggy as you would expect, but he has got that weapon of a turn of foot," said the Italian.
"He has become the people's favourite horse. Last year he won the Gold Cup, and we are trying to defend the title.
"The great thing about him is that he wears his heart on the sleeve and he never goes down without a fight."
With £500,000 on offer, the race forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series - and Stradivarius will have two new, worthy rivals in the shape of Dee Ex Bee, who ran with credit in the Derby and St Leger last year, and Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter.
Dee Ex Bee trainer Mark Johnston, who last won the Gold Cup with the second of Royal Rebel's wins in 2002, and his third in all after Double Trigger in 1995, said: "He's had two races, and they were exactly the two races I wanted.
"The Gold Cup is going to be a lot tougher - of course it is. But the Sagaro and Henry II, to my mind, are the two recognised trials - and he's won them both."