By Dave Stevos
Thursday’s feature race, The Royal Ascot Gold Cup, is a 2m4f Group 1 and it is going to be a real stamina test with no sign of the ground improving at Ascot. As is the case with so many of the Group 1s at this meeting Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore have a superb recent record in the race. O’Brien has been successful in 6 of the last 10 renewals and he won it four years in a row with Yeats from 2006-2009.
Ed Dunlop won it last year with his doughty stayer Trip To Paris, but he had a setback during the winter and he will not be back to defend his crown. 6 of the last 10 favourites have won and the biggest priced winner in that period was 20/1 shot Rite Of Passage for Dermot Weld back in 2010.
O’Brien is putting all his eggs in one basket this year and, given his record, it is no surprise to see Order Of St George at the head of the market at even money with Ladbrokes. This 4yo son of Galileo is streets ahead of his rivals on official ratings, and he landed his first Group 1 when winning the Irish St. Leger at the Curragh last September (14f gd) by 11L.
Soft ground should hold no fears as he has won by a combined total of almost 20L on the two occasions he has raced on it, including a Group 3 by over 7L. The only doubt would be this marathon trip as his pedigree doesn’t scream stamina, and he has never raced beyond 14f. However, if he stays he should win and his trainer has long earmarked this race as the target.
Clever Cookie has 11lb to find with the favourite but this gallant 8yo son of Primo Valentino should give each way players a good run for their money at 10/1. This fella has been the flagbearer for Peter Niven and he has won 11 of his 22 starts. He is a smashing dual purpose type and he has won a Grade 2 over hurdles (18f). He has been a revelation on the flat and he has scored at Listed, Group 3 and Group 2 level.
He was beaten on his only try at Group 1 level here last season but that run came over 12f (sft) and the trip was way too short. He stayed on really well for fifth after getting badly outpaced early on, and it wasn’t a bad run in the circumstances. He loves to get his toe in and he has twice run well here over 16f so he handles the track. He could be one to put it up to the fav at odds of 10/1 with Bet365.
Max Dynamite is another intriguing contender for Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci. This is another classy dual purpose type and he went agonisingly close in the Melbourne Cup last November. He made a very pleasing return to action behind Pallasator at Sandown last month and he is sure to strip much fitter after that outing.
He is another that won’t mind the ground and he also should appreciate the step up in trip to 20f. He was nearly 5L too good for Mizzou when they met last season but, over 4f further and on softer ground, it could be a lot closer between the two this time. This is likely a stepping stone towards a repeat bid in Melbourne, but he is dangerous to discount from a place perspective at odds of 8/1 with Coral.
If Clever Cookie has a chance, then both Flying Officer and Mizzou have to be considered too. Frankie takes the ride on Flying Officer for John Gosden and he had Clever Cookies’ measure when they met here last October (16f gd/sft). He was behind that rival and Mizzou when they met in the Sagaro here back in April, but there was only a length between the three of them. It was Flying Officer’s first run back of the season and he should improve for it. He will likely make a bold bid from the front at odds of 12/1 with Boylesports but he could set it up for the closers.
Andrea Atzeni keeps the ride on Mizzou and he is entitled to improve for that run in the Sagaro as it was his first run back of the season. He could only manage seventh in this race last year behind Trip To Paris but it wasn’t a lack of stamina that beat him. He was only beaten 4L and he just got tapped for toe as the pace lifted on the good to firm ground before staying on really well. He will appreciate the underfoot conditions on Thursday and this son of Galileo could go a lot closer this time around at odds of 10/1 with SkyBet.
Pallasator is a quirky son of Motivator but when he is at his best he is a serious horse. He has some engine on him and he looked back to something like his best when accounting for Sueigoo, Max Dynamite and Burmese last time out at Sandown (16f gd/fm). He proved that he stays at least 18f when winning the Doncaster Cup last season, but he was hanging on a bit at the finish. He has won on heavy ground in the past but his best form has come on good or better and there has to be doubts about him lasting home over 20f on soft ground.
The bookies’ prices suggest that this is a one horse race and that the rest will be battling it out for minor honours. Order Of St George has looked like a serious horse on his last few starts and all ground comes alike to him. His trainer is convinced he will stay, but his pedigree doesn’t convince and at even money I will not be steaming in. He could well go and hack up, but for a horse that has yet to race beyond 14f evens looks a shade skinny to me in what is a hot race.
The one I will be supporting each way at odds of 10/1 is Luca Cumani’s Mizzou. He ran a cracker in this race last year, beaten by just 4L, and the soft ground this year should enable him to get even closer. Cumani will have him trained to the minute for this race and he will be happy that the rain has come. He won his maiden by 6L on soft ground and there was juice in the ground when he won here over 16f last time. Atzeni has ridden him three times, winning twice and beaten a head on the other occasion. He should come on for his seasonal return and, at odds of 10/1 with Ladbrokes, he is suggested as an each way alternative to the favourite.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: MIZZOU E/W 10/1