Fame can reward O'Brien bravery in stamina test
If there is any substance to concerns about Fame And Glory's stamina, today is the day we will find out.
The 2009 Irish Derby hero is due to undergo a thorough examination over the marathon two-and-a-half-mile Gold Cup trip at Royal Ascot. Granted, his opposition wouldn't hold a candle to him over middle distances, but the notion that he might not stay and still win this afternoon's Group One is fanciful.
From Swinley Bottom to the finishing post at Ascot, a journey that extends to a mile, the climb is unforgiving. With a bundle of proven sloggers among his 14 rivals, the slightest deficiency in Fame And Glory's reserves will eventually be seized upon.
That said, Aidan O'Brien's five-year-old has done enough to suggest that he should get home. While he may not have won the Saval Beg Stakes impressively over a mile and six furlongs at Leopardstown last time, he certainly saw out the trip well.
Indeed, stamina is one of the defining traits of the progeny of his sire, Montjeu. None of Montjeu's classier offspring have been tried over such an extreme distance before, but that is simply because they don't really need to be.
O'Brien's decision to explore the option with Fame And Glory is a brave one, and the Ballydoyle handler doubtless left plenty to work on ahead of his most recent assignment. If that is the case, then Jamie Spencer's mount is value now at 2/1, as O'Brien looks poised for more glory in the showpiece that he farmed with the mighty Yeats.
In the absence of last year's hero Rite Of Passage, it's not easy to pinpoint one with the class to trouble the three-time Group One winner, should he stay. Incredibly, there isn't another horse in the race that has won at the highest level.
Fictional Account, a first runner at the royal meeting for Co Meath sheep farmer Vincent Ward, could make the frame at up to 20/1. Successful at Ascot over two miles in September, Ward's mare has twice run well behind the favourite this term. Likewise, the Yorkshire Cup winner Duncan is a live each-way option at 6/1.
O'Brien has a number of other decent prospects on the card, but maybe none so intriguing as Marksmanship in the Tercentenary Stakes. Although this has the makings of an immensely competitive Group Three, Marksmanship turned in an excellent performance to win on his racecourse debut at The Curragh in April.
Partnered by the trainer's son Joseph, who makes way for Ryan Moore here, the Galileo colt stretched clear on slow ground to score with any amount in hand. Once the apprentice asked for an effort just over a furlong out, the response was immediate and a stack of subsequent winners, including Notable Graduate, were left in his wake.
Needless to say, this is a huge step up. Nonetheless, that O'Brien deems it worth a shot with such an inexperienced three-year-old tells its own story.
Jim Bolger's decision to allow Banimpire tackle the Ribblesdale Stakes is also of note. A winner over today's mile-and-a-half trip at Cork on Sunday, Banimpire's only defeat this term came when she dropped to a mile when fifth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Whether her busy schedule will take its toll remains to be seen, but there are few more accomplished at keeping one fresh than Bolger.
Dermot Weld's only runner on day three of the Berkshire festival is Honey Of A Kitten in the Britannia Handicap. Second at Naas in April on her only outing this season, the lightly raced filly isn't without an each-way squeak.
2.30 Crown Dependency
3.45 Fame And Glory
4.25 Honey Of A Kitten