One of the undoubted highlights of Royal Ascot’s five day meeting is the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup which takes place on Ladies day. Run over a stamina sapping two miles and four furlongs and pitching together some of the toughest stayers in Europe, it’s always an intriguing battle of grit, determination and class, and more often than not in recent times the fancied horses have come to the fore.
Eight of the last 10 winners were priced at 6/1 or less (odds as of 22/06/2017), and six of those were favourites, priced at 6/4 or shorter. Of course upon closer inspection you can see the horses involved in those stats and see that three of those wins were by the magnificent Yeats between 2007 and 2009 and the other three short priced favourites to oblige were all Aidan O’Brien trained as well. Fame And Glory in 2011, Leading Light in 2014, and last year’s winner Order of St George who is back to defend his crown this year and currently around the even money mark to succeed.
Trip To Paris (12/1) and Rite Of Passage (20/1) are the two bigger priced winners over the last decade but both of those were in years where there was no standout candidate for Ballydoyle. Kingfisher was the shortest priced Ballydoyle candidate in Trip To Paris’ Gold Cup and arguably would have won with a bit more luck in the run, so, forget about the trends, because effectively what we have here is a stable so dominant in producing the right type of horse for this race that all one has to do is decide whether you are with them, or against them. And the reason they are so dominant? Saddlers Well is his name. Sire of the great Galileo, who has proved as equally adept as his father in the bedroom, Saddler’s Wells has had a hand (or hock) in all seven of Ballydoyle’s Gold Cup wins with the latest, this year’s favourite, Order of St George, a son of Galileo, looking to add another notch to the bedpost.
So will it be yet another Ascot Gold Cup triumph for the all powerful Saddler’s Wells bloodline or is there something lurking lower down the list that could cause a surprise?
Order of St George
Last year’s winner warmed up with a win in a Leopardstown Listed race after meeting defeat on seasonal debut. Not much to learn from either of those really as is a proven top classer when the big days come around. Third in the Arc is serious form and although the ground will be a lot quicker than last year, he seems to go on it perfectly well. Still one to take on at the likely short odds.
2015 St Leger winning mare who almost always runs well, as when close up in the Champions Long Distance Cup here in October behind Sheikhzayedroad. Ground on the fast side would be a concern but trainer is very confident she’ll stay the trip. Currently around the 7/1 mark.
Likes the ground rattling fast and first try at this trip after plenty of success over two miles, including a valiant fifth in a Melbourne Cup. Frankie Dettori’s loss is James Doyles gain and this relentless galloper looks one of the more likely ones if staying the extra half mile.
Quirky but very talented beast who has taken his form to a new level since stepped up to proper staying trips, culiminating in victory in the Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot back in October. Showed he stayed the trip well enough when third in the Gold Cup last year and faster ground won’t be a problem for him. Likely to be in the shake up at a fair price.
Certain stayer and followed up her gutsy Cesarewitch win with a victory in the Sagaro Stakes on this season’s reappearance. Might have been flattered that day by racing close to a slugggish pace and has plenty to find even if she does like the ground rattling. Big step forward needed again.
Late maturing type for Jessica Harrington who has won two on the spin this season, including a beating of Order of St George on his season reappearance when clearly not fully tuned up. Has never raced over two miles, never mind two and a half miles so plenty to prove on all counts. Currently around 14/1.
Prince of Aran
Improved dramatically over the winter on the allweather and showed that turf is no problem last time when reproducing that level of form. Strikes as a similar type to previous winner Trip To Paris in his career progress and unexposed as a stayer. Need a strong pace to be seen to best effect and will certainly get that. Current price of 33/1 looks a bit of value.