If the powers-that-be could bottle the connection the racing public feels with the runners who contest Thursday’s Ascot Gold Cup – then the Sport of Kings would make headline news every day.
This was brilliantly illustrated two years ago when Estimate won the race for the Queen.
It was magnificent. The sheer joy Her Majesty showed, the excitement of the crowd, the drama as the race unfolded. Punters loved it.
These true stars of the Flat code are sadly few and far between though as the breeding sheds don’t want the winner of an Ascot Gold Cup anymore. Speed is everything to them as they pension off the crack milers and 10f specialists as soon as the dollar signs appear.
It’s a real shame. The Ascot Gold Cup is a superb race and requires all the bravery and courage that punters identify with in the top National Hunt horses who enthrall us year-after-year and allow the racing public to form a real affinity with them.
Multiple Ascot Gold Cup winners like Yeats, Royal Rebel, Double Trigger and the great Segar0 are a few of the great stayers on the level that are remembered the way Red Rum, Desert Orchid, Istabraq, Denman and Kauto Star are over jumps.
Even the St Leger winner – the final Classic of the season in September – is likely to be classed as a plodder by the breeding boys.
Frankie Dettori (above at Ascot) won the Epsom Derby 10 days ago on the impressive Golden Horn – the Italian’s second win in a long and illustrious career.
But are we going to see Golden Horn kept in training as a four-year-old to prove how good he really is?
It would be great to see him going to Sandown for the Coral–Eclipse Stakes next month where he could lock horns with the likes of St James’s Palace Stakes and dual Guineas winner Gleneagles, Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle, Western Hymn or The Grey Gatsby.
But I fear that he’ll only have a couple more races after that.
Risk and reward
His value as a Derby-winning stallion could run to tens of million over his lifetime and the risk of keeping him in training is far greater than the reward of packing him off to stud.
Golden Horn’s owner breeder Anthony Oppenheime and the other big stud operators like Coolmore and Godolphin make hard-nosed commercial decisions and always ask themselves “what are we going to gain from this?”.
But their gain is the racing public’s loss as the Flat stars get retired to the paddocks before they carve out a place in our hearts.
Going for Gold …
So who is going to win Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup (4.20pm)?
Dermott Weld’s Forgotten Rules won the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day over two miles in heavy ground last October when dispatching Leading Light and a class field. He staying on like a train, suggesting this step up will present no problems at all.
Luca Cumani’s Mizzou reappeared in the Sagaro Stakes at the end of April and despite being badly hampered at the start and getting out-paced early on, flew home to win by two lengths and is one for the the short-list.
Vent De Force won the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown at the end of last month, beating Simenon and Forever Now, with a positive front running ride from Richard Hughes. He’ll need to improve but will certainly stay the 2m 4f trip.
The Chester Cup winner, Trip To Paris was second to him at Sandown but even though he met trouble in running, looks to have it all to do here.
Tac De Boistron won the Sagaro Stakes last year by five lengths was second in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester on debut, but Marco Botti’s runner may need softer ground to show his best.
The one I think is a bit of value is Aidan O’Brien’s KINGFISHER who finished second in last year’s Irish Derby to (the now retired) Australia and looked good when winning at Leopardstown last time after being beaten by Forgotten Rules on his seasonal debut.
The 2m 4f trip is a journey into the unknown but we probably thought the same about Leading Light (2014) and Fame and Glory (2011) who both delivered for Ballydoyle.
MAC’S PICK: KINGFISHER (each-way)
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