IS IT time for a new king to take to the throne of the stayers’ division?
Thursday’s Gold Cup (4:20pm), the jewel in the crown of Royal Ascot’s five-day bonanza, looks set to be a duel between eight-year-old three-time winner, STRADIVARIUS, and improving four-year-old, KYPRIOS.
The heart says Stradivarius, and the head isn’t far from leaning that way either.
Any doubts over his enthusiasm for the game were put to bed at York last time out, where he picked up from off the pace to come upsides Thunderous and knuckle down well to win by a length.
I wouldn’t be put off by his run in the race last year either, as things just didn’t go to plan for Frankie Dettori and his mount, so he deserves another crack at joining Yeats as the race’s most successful horse.
For a stayer his turn of foot is unrivalled, and connections will be pleased the rain has stayed away this year too, but winning a record-equalling fourth Gold Cup at his age might be a bridge too far.
The young pretender, Kyprios, arrives here unbeaten in his two starts over one-mile-six-furlongs this season, most recently bounding clear by fourteen, yes fourteen, lengths to win the Group Three Levmoss Stakes.
That contest was no Gold Cup, but he couldn’t have been more impressive, and I think he’s the right favourite for the race at 7/4, with Stradivarius second in at 5/2.
Aidan O’Brien has been searching for his next star stayer for a few years now, with Order Of St George his last winner of this race back in 2016, and he too used the Levmoss Stakes as a launchpad to Gold Cup glory.
If there’s to be a shock, or if you’re looking for one who could run into the frame at big price, then last year’s Derby runner-up MOJO STAR is the way to go.
Having run second in two Classics, including the biggest race of them all at Epsom, he’s got some very strong form.
The question marks over trip and ground, as well as the strong opposition, are factored into his price at 18/1, but he’s there to prove us all wrong.
His sire, the great Sea The Stars, was at his best on good ground, while his half-brother, Portage, was also a winner at Listed level on good-to-firm, so there are reasons for optimism.
As for the step up in trip, he stuck on well to finish a clear second in the St Leger, so clearly isn’t short of stamina, and looks the type who can keep progressing with age.
Soon after he crossed the line at Doncaster in September, connections mentioned targeting the Gold Cup, and he’s been off the track since, so it would be no surprise to see him run a huge race.
With the World Pool active via tote.co.uk across all five days this week, attracting around £30million in bets per day, there’s definite value in tapping into the exotic markets.
The Quinella – a prediction of the first two horses home in any order – could be the way to go here, with Kyprios and Stradivarius claiming the first two spots the most likely outcome, but throw Mojo Star in there to return a nice dividend if he does spring a surprise.
Kyprios 4:20pm Ascot
(Kyprios, Stradavarius, Mojo Star) 4:20pm Ascot