AIDAN O’Brien has dominated the Gold Cup (3.45pm) for the last six seasons, with five wins and an agonising second, and FAME AND GLORY is strongly fancied to repeat his heroics of twelve months ago.
He comfortably saw off Opinion Poll that day and proved that this marathon two- and-a-half mile trip holds no fears. In fact, he saw off that very same rival for a second time over a slightly shorter trip here in the Long Distance Cup last October and I can see no reason why he won’t finish in front of the Godolphin runner again.
Fame And Glory made a solid reappearance in a Listed event at Navan last month where he carried a Group One winner’s penalty and showed all his best battling qualities to beat the game Unaccompanied by a neck. That victory, over a now probably inadequate one mile and six furlongs, would have blown all the cobwebs away and it’s important to remember that my selection has an extraordinary record in the month of June. In four starts in the sixth month of the year over the last three seasons, only Sea The Stars has beaten him in the 2009 Investec Derby.
He has the natural blend of stamina and speed required to win this unique contest and four wins at the highest level at a mile and a half and shorter are testimony of the latter. Admittedly, he is not always the most consistent of performers, but he has tended to be at his peak on the days that matter. He can be backed at evens with Coral and that seems a fair price about one so talented with no stamina doubts.
Frankie Dettori has switched from Opinion Poll to Colour Vision at the last minute and the former Mark Johnston runner caught the eye with a really impressive win in the Sagaro Stakes at Kempton. The four-year-old showed a blistering turn of foot to wear down Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux and is clearly progressing. He finished third to Fame And Glory here in October and connections clearly expect him to get closer this afternoon.
However, he’s not guaranteed to stay this marathon trip and a bigger danger may come from John Oxx’s Saddler’s Risk who readily saw off Opinion Poll in last season’s Yorkshire Cup. He’ll appreciate the better ground and will strip much fitter for his reappearance. Oxx doesn’t bring horses over to Ascot for the day out and I expect the four-year-old to chase Fame And Glory home.
I’ve been so used to ploughing my way through monster fields this week that I have to admit I was a little surprised that only 12 two-year-old colts stood their ground in today’s opener. The Norfolk Stakes (2.30pm) has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for punters with seven of the last nine runnings going to colts priced at 6/1 or shorter.
Now, my eyes are immediately drawn to the Mick Channon-trained CAY VERDE who stepped up from a pleasing debut behind Englishman at Newbury to beat Tuesday’s Windsor Castle Stakes winner Hototo over this course and distance by two and a half lengths on his second start. He then went on to win a decent Listed event at the Curragh last time beating Dylanbaru, who finished third behind Hototo on Tuesday, relatively comfortably.
He looks really professional for one so young and has also demonstrated an ability to handle all sorts of ground. The draw won’t play a part as there are only the 12 runners and he looks the one to beat.
Richard Hannon’s Annunciation is sure to put up a bold show, but he was well and truly put in his place by Clive Cox’s Reckless Abandon at Doncaster and it is hard to see him reversing that form.
CAY VERDE 2.30pm Royal Ascot
FAME AND GLORY 3.45pm Royal Ascot