Leading Light to spoil royal party in Gold Cup

Bill Esdaile
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FOR MOST the highlight of last year’s Royal Ascot was seeing the Queen’s Estimate win the Ascot Gold Cup – a race still regarded by traditionalists as the centrepiece of the whole five days.

Ryan Moore rode the Sir Michael Stoute-trained mare into the record books, becoming the first horse to win the race for a reigning monarch in its 207-year history.

If she can repeat the trick today (4.25pm) then there won’t be a more popular winner all week – but the mare has her work cut out.

Difficult to train, she’s raced just once since, losing her unbeaten three-race run at Ascot on Champions Day. Apparently she’s been working well but it will take a monster effort to win this on her reappearance against stayers of this calibre.

LEADING LIGHT has won six of his last seven starts including the St Leger at Doncaster. The only defeat came in the Arc and Aidan O’Brien’s charge has all the credentials to follow in the footsteps of his former stablemate Yeats, who landed this Group One prize for four successive years (2006-2009).

The four-year-old was a cosy winner of the Queen’s Vase at this meeting 12 months ago and has so much class. His rather lazy style of running masks a steely determination and assuming he stays this two-and-a-half mile trip, and everything suggests he will, then he’ll triumph as far as I’m concerned.

Michael Owen and Tom Dascombe’s Brown Panther always runs well at Ascot, but this might be a bridge too far. A strongly-run race would put pressure on his stamina and he’s vulnerable to younger legs.

Dermot Weld’s Rite Of Passage won this in 2010 and Pale Mimosa has a squeak, although she was beaten by Leading Light at Navan in May. So too was Royal Diamond and the admirable eight-year-old is sure to find his conqueror too strong again. Star Sports are still holding out at 11/8 on Leading Light and it’s worth snapping up before connections pile in.

BILIMBI broke the hearts of his followers and more than a few punters hunting the monster Scoop 6 at Haydock last time when finishing sixth. But several things conspired against him that day and he looks worth supporting each-way at 14/1 with Paddy Power in the annual puzzle that is the Britannia Stakes (5.00pm).

A 30-runner race over a mile will produce a number of hard-luck stories, but hopefully he can avoid that breaking from stall 30 against the stands rail.

He was caught up in a speed dual at Haydock on horrible ground but tactically this should be totally different and the gelding was impressive on fast ground the time before.

LEADING LIGHT 4.25pm Ascot
BILIMBI e/w 5.00pm Ascot