The Gold Cup is the only Group 1 contest on the third day of Royal Ascot (4.25pm Thursday). At two and a half miles it provides the longest run for punters’ money of the meeting.
The appropriately named Leading Light,winner of the St Leger, heads the betting market at 6/4. His trainer, Aidan O’Brien has won five of the past eight Gold Cups and has a very good chance of making it six. Leading Light also won the two mile Queen’s Vase at this meeting last year, staying on gamely to beat John Gosden’s Feel Like Dancing by a length and a half. The last half mile will be unknown territory for this son of Montjeu but the manner of that victory gives every hope that it should not pose a problem.
This season his only run was in the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in May. He started as the favourite and won like one, beating Johnny Murtagh’s Royal Diamond by three lengths when carrying 2lb more than him. He is proven on both good to firm and good to soft ground so the weather forecast holds no fears for him. He is the highest rated contender, starting off a mark of 118 and, as a four-year-old, carries 2lb less than his older male rivals. He will be partnered by Joseph O’Brien who believes that this is his best chance of a win in the entire meeting.
Royal Diamond (16/1) has also had just the one run this season. This son of King’s Best also posted a win over two miles at Ascot last year, in the Group 3 two mile British Champions Long Distance Cup on soft ground in October. He was a surprise 20/1 winner, beating William Haggas’ Harris Tweed by a nose.
He is rated 4lb lower than the favourite but has run over two miles five furlongs when a five-year-old and ought to get the distance here but at eight-years-old is a bit long in the tooth for this race. Only Aidan O’Brien’s Gold Cup legend Yeats has managed to win at that age since 1900. He will be partnered for the first time by Richard Hughes who has already proved to be a worthy substitute for Murtagh, winning the King’s Stand on Sole Power. Royal Diamond looks interesting as an each-way prospect.
The second favourite is the former footballer, Michael Owen’s Brown Panther at 6/1. This son of Shirocco trained by Tom Dascombe is unbeaten in his two runs this season. Most recently he took the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown at the end of May. He pulled in the early stages but prevailed by three and half lengths, beating James Fanshawe’s High Jinx. That was over two miles and half a furlong on soft ground.
In his previous run he beat Sir Michael Stoute’s disappointing favourite, Hillstar by just over two lengths in a Group 3 at Chester. He has never encountered this distance before but the less testing surface will help his cause. As a six-year-old he is pretty good age for this race. Five of them have won since the turn of the century.
The Queen’s Estimate (8/1) was a popular winner of this race last year under Ryan Moore. She started as the 7/2 favourite and beat Willie Mullins’ Simenon by a neck. This will be the mare’s first outing this season and although her trainer, Sir Michael Stoute (pictured), is known for leaving a little to work on, she has succeeded on her debut in the past two seasons.
Now a five-year-old, this daughter of Monsun carries 2lb more than she shouldered last year. Rated 112 she will have to be at her very best to retain her title. Moore will partner her again.
Simenon (20/1) has once again been sent over by Mullins. He has been busy on a truly global campaign, finishing fifth in the Hong Kong Vase in December. His most recent performance suggests that his travels may have taken their toll. He finished 22 lengths behind Tac De Boistron in the Sagaro Stakes in sixth. Others have stronger claims.
An interesting foreign raider is Andreas Wohler’s Altano (10/1). He finished fifth beaten nearly four lengths in this race last year but went on to win the Group 1 Prix Du Cadran at Longchamp over the same distance in October. He beat Marco Botti’s Tac De Boistron by two and a half lengths on soft ground. Three weeks later Tac De Boistron beat him by 10 lengths in another Group 1 at Longchamp, the Prix Royal-Oak, over two miles on very soft ground.
Altano seems in good order, winning his only start this season in a Group 3 at Hoppegarten over two miles on good to soft in May. Now an eight-year-old, he probably needs cut in the ground to give him a chance of beating his younger rivals and looks unlikely to get it.
Tac De Boistron (8/1) lines up against him again here. This seven-year-old won easily on his debut in April this year, taking the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes over two miles here. He beat Nicky Henderson’s Earth Amber by five lengths. He went on to finish second, a neck behind Sir Michael Stoute’s Gospel Choir, in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup at York in May. That was his most promising result on good ground.
He shares a rating of 117 with Altano and although he is thoroughly useful, his form also suggests that his chances would be significantly helped by soft ground.
Gold Cup Preview & Betting Tips Conclusion
The favourite, Leading Light is a worthy market leader but seems ungenerously priced as he is unproven over this distance. I would rather take a chance on ESTIMATE and back her each-way (1/4 odds a place first three) at a best price of 8/1 with Betfred.