Once again Royal Ascot descends upon Berkshire’s picturesque course with a plethora of talented horses, jockeys and trainers all looking at writing their names in the history books as part of flat racing’s biggest events. An event that Britain’s most prestigious characters will have ringed out on their calendars for months, the five-day Festival is an expression of supreme flat racing talent, with Thursday’s Gold Cup one of the main events.
Indeed, the third day at Ascot is perhaps the pinnacle for talent and with last year’s winner Kyprios officially ruled out of the race, the Paddy Power racing odds look extremely interesting. After seeing off Mojo Star and Stradivarius, denying the latter a fourth win in five years, the Aidan O’Brien-trained horse was in a purple patch of form. However, the four-year-old’s six successive wins would end on Arc weekend as he triumphed in the Prix du Cadran, with the Irishman doubting his availability as early as March.
“I don’t think Kyprios is going to make the Gold Cup,” O’Brien said. “He got an inner infection, inside in the joint. It’s an unusual thing for it to come inside the joint. The joint had to be flushed. Then his bloods were still up after it was flushed so that meant there was further infection in the joint and they had to flush it again.
“It’s like one of your own joints, sometimes it takes a while to settle down and that’s where we’re at with them at the moment. It happened a month ago and it’s just not settling down yet. Sometimes those things can settle very quickly and sometimes they don’t.”
It leaves room for a new champion to try and cement their legacy at Ascot by winning the Gold Cup, but who could secure victory? Read on, as we assess some of the favourites for this year’s race as we begin the countdown to Ascot.
We start things off with the favourite for the race — Andrew Balding’s mightily impressive Coltrane. The experienced six-year-old comes in at 3/1 having won the Coral Marathon and also the Doncaster Cup as well as second in the Chester Cup and a Lonsdale Cup victory that took everyone by surprise. This upturn in form arrives perfectly heading into the Gold Cup and having made his return after 200 days on the same course back in May with Oisin Murphy aboard, it’s hard to see anyone slowing Coltrane down.
Next up is Roger Varian-trained Eldar Eldarov. The four-year-old was unfortunate at York when he came second in the Boodles Yorkshire Cup Stakes, and despite the loss to Giavellotto he still comes into Ascot as one of the favourites at 11/4. A good run last year saw him place fourth in the Grand Prix de Paris, and after winning the Grade 1 St Leger in September, it’s no surprise Varian is confident in Eldar Eldarov’s chances for those that bet on Ascot.
“He’s great, he couldn’t have taken it [the run] better and I’ve been delighted with him this week,” said the Newmarket handler. “His profile looks good for the Gold Cup and the St Leger form is starting to show its worth now.”
While Subjectivist has been imperious at Ascot over the years it seems like this year’s race will serve as a passing of the torch moment, with Emily Dickinson looking to cause a stir for O’Brien’s stable. Named after the American poet, few words could sum up the disappointment at Leopardstown following a poor showing in the Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes. But the four-year-old had won two consecutive races before that and could easily give Coltrane and Emily Dickinson a run for their money come June 22.