Gold Cup Day at Royal Ascot is always the racing highlight of the week and this year it will feature one of the genuine superstars of the sport as Stradivarius bids to become a dual winner of the meeting’s most prestigious race.
Such a feat hasn’t been achieved since Yeats, who recorded a remarkable fourth victory in the race ten years ago, but the star of the staying division and Flat racing in general has an excellent chance after returning as good as ever at York in May.
Stradivarius will be a hugely popular winner but he faces stiff competition from Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter as well as Dee Ex Bee, rejuvenated as a stayer this season. Aidan O’Brien runs Capri, Cypress Creek and Flag Of Honour while France is represented by Called To The Bar in a deep looking renewal. It should be a superb spectacle.
Elsewhere on the card the Group Two Norfolk Stakes gets things underway with Sunday Sovereign the clear market leader. Ascot winners Ventura Rebel and Expressionist will be tough to crack though while Mount Fuji could be anything for the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore combination.
The Hampton Court Stakes over 1m 2f looks extremely competitive with Cape Of Good Hope, Fox Chairman and King Ottokar vying for favouritism. The later of those has form on Soft ground so the rain could play into his hands while Buckhurst is a very interesting runner for Joseph O’Brien who should also like ease in the ground and has some strong form in the book.
The Ribblesdale Stakes looks at the mercy of Fleeting after her impressive performance in the Oaks to finish third after suffering a troubled passage through. Queen Power is a talented filly though who still looks unexposed and should go close while Frankellina shouldn’t be discounted for the in form William Haggas who already has two winners to his name this week.
A fiendishly difficult Britannia is the penultimate race but Motafaawit is of interest with two wins this year over seven furlongs including one at Ascot which has since had the form franked. If Velorum can translate his novice form into this type of race then he should be well treated for Charlie Appleby and James Doyle.
The King George V Stakes rounds off the day and Constantinople has an ideal profile for this kind of race having improved with every start. Mark Johnston’s Sir Ron Priestly is also clearly on the upgrade after two wins from as many starts this season while Almania for Sir Michael Stoute is an intriguing runner.