A Look Ahead - The Ascot Gold Cup

A Look Ahead - The Ascot Gold Cup

The Ascot 'Gold Cup' is the highlight of the Royal Ascot meeting, held in June each year.

The race is a Group One flat contest open to horses four years or older, and ran over the marathon distance of two-and-a-half miles.

It is Britain's most prestigious event for "stayers" – horses that specialise in racing over long distances on the flat, and is the most coveted 'Long Distance' contest in the QIPCO British Champion Series held throughout the season.

The event is the feature of the week as mentioned, and is traditionally held on the third day of the Royal Ascot, otherwise known as Ladies' Day.

It was established back in 1807, and forms the second leg of the Stayers Million - won last year by retaining champion Stradivarius.

John Gosden's five-year-old went onto win the Goodwood Cup at the Glorious meeting six weeks later, and won at York in both the Yorkshire Cup and Lonsdale Cup to start and complete the tally which awarded his connections a seven-figure sum.

The Gold Cup is one of three perpetual trophies at the Royal Ascot meeting, along with the Royal Hunt Cup and the Queen's Vase, which can be kept permanently by the winning owners.

A number of horses have won it more than once, including the most successful - Yeats, who recorded his fourth straight victory in 2009 for trainer Aidan O'Brien.

The Ballydoyle master has won the race three times since then - most notably with legendary stayer Order Of St George in 2016, but the son of Galileo could not get past the Michael Bell-trained Big Orange twelve months on in one of the race's greatest ever duels in its' history.

There was also a royal winner to celebrate in 2013, when Ryan Moore guided home the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Estimate to win in the colours of her majesty the Queen.

Who will be taking the honours this year?

The field is headed by the aforementioned Stradivarius, winner of this contest last season.

The son of Sea The Stars has won all of his races since the start of last season, and has really transitioned into one of the greatest stayers in the world since winning the Queen's Vase as a three-year-old back in 2017.

He was sent off the joint 7/4 favourite in this contest twelve months ago, and although potentially going off the same sort of price, he looks comfortably clear in the market.

That is not to say his challengers are weak, and Cross Counter (second favourite) will certainly have a big part to play.

Charlie Appleby's four-year-old is another that has built on from a Royal Ascot performance in his past to go on to reach the top level.

The son of Teofilo finished fourth in the King George V Stakes last season, but was waiting for that illusive step up in trip.

That's exactly what he got after victory in the Qatar Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, and a head second to Old Persian in the Voltigeur Stakes at York.

The Godolphin trainer sent him down under to contest the Melbourne Cup, of which he won stylishly under Kerrin McEvoy, to lead home a British 1-2-3.

This season, he began his campaign with an effortless victory in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan during their World Cup festival, and looks a completely different and matured horse this season.

He has grown and improved rapid amounts, and holds good form with another player in this field - De Ex Bee, from his win on the Sussex Downs from August.

The Mark Johnston-trained colt finished second in last season's Investec Derby, proving the ability to stay is one of his finest qualities, before a fair and decent fourth in the St Leger at Doncaster.

The four-year-old has started this season immaculately too, winning comfortably at this venue in the Sagaro Stakes, before hosing up in the Henry II Staes at Sandown.

He could show his credentials alongside Kew Gardens, who is yet to get off the mark this season and had to settle for second best at Chester and at Epsom.

The ground was against him in Cheshire, whereas the track perhaps got the better of him on the Surrey Downs, despite the fact he only finished half-a-length off the winner.

Last year's St Leger hero looked a Gold Cup candidate in the making after his victory here in the Queen's Vase last year - the same race Stradivarius bolted up in the season before claiming this race in 2018.

Connections will hope he can return to his A game, and O'Brien will look to control the race with a number of other contenders, including Flag Of Honour, who gave his best behind stablemate Magical at the Curragh in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

That result made it a hat-trick of seconds for the four-year-old, who also finished behind Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day here in October.

Southern France and Capri could also appear here, whilst Ian Williams has Magic Circle for Dr Marwan Koukash.

Despite the Melbourne Cup plan not coming to fruition, the seven-year-old showed his best in front of goal on home turf, and landed the Henry II Stakes at Sandown after his incredible triumph in the Chester Cup.

De Ex Bee and Magic Circle have both won the Esher contest in the last two seasons, whereas Thomas Hobson will represent the incoming National Hunt invasion.

Willie Mullins is a master of the staying contests at Royal Ascot, and this horse won the Ascot Stakes back in 2017, four days before he finished a running on second to Oriental Fox in the Queen Alexandra Stakes later in the week.

He was the closest thing to Stradivarius on Champions Day and maybe was a shade unfortunate in running, so should be a danger once again.

Falcon Eight, Master Of Reality and Raymond Tusk represent the best of the outsiders.