Light to lead way home for Ballydoyle
Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30
Mick Winters' inimitable style will doubtless colour the ultimate fairytale triumph if Missunited thwarts the Queen's reigning champion Estimate on the grandest of stages at Ascot, but the royal party pooper is expected to come from a more traditional source.
Aidan O'Brien relies on the 2013 St Leger hero Leading Light in his quest for a record sixth Gold Cup success. The Ballydoyle genius has endured a decidedly mixed campaign, with Australia's Derby rout compensating for so many of his team's lacklustre performances.
A raft of his elite team are clearly struggling to shake off the effects of an early season cough, but O'Brien has always had an uncanny knack of ensuring that his blue-chip representatives are fit for battle on the marquee occasions. This is one such event, so Leading Light is fancied to deliver.
Beaten on its Galway debut in 2012, the Montjeu colt hasn't taken a backward step since, his eclipse behind Treve in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe being his sole defeat in seven subsequent starts. The four-year-old simply wasn't good enough for such a prestigious 12-furlong Group One, but his win in the Queens Vase here last year confirmed his potential for top-class staying events.
Granted, this historic two-and-a-half-miler is a better race over four furlongs further. However, there is always a leap of faith involved with any horse trying the lung-bursting journey for a first time, and Leading Light looked on fine terms with himself when he slammed Royal Diamond, Pale Mimosa and Saddler's Rock on his Navan return over a mile-and-six in May.
If he turns up here at the top of his game, then he ought to prove a formidable prospect under champion jockey Joseph O'Brien. The seven-strong Irish contingent boasts considerable muscle, though it's hard to envisage Missunited possessing sufficient quality to secure a romantic coup on such fast ground.
Dermot Weld's Pale Mimosa might progress to be in the shake-up for each-way honours at up to 14/1, but Willie Mullins' 2013 runner-up Simenon is hard to fancy now, likewise his conqueror.
Simenon could be at the stage where he might benefit from a break, while Estimate is having her first start here since the autumn. It would be a surprise if either were to win today.
The O'Brien duo might also take the Norfolk Stakes with The Great War, which has long been touted as one of their most precocious juveniles and currently heads the betting for the 2015 2,000 Guineas. In stretching its unbeaten record to two at the Curragh, the War Front colt thrashed a fair field, so there will be long faces if he doesn't complete the hat-trick in this Group Two.
Ger Lyons' Obliterator is passed over in favour of Luca Cumani's Postponed in the Tercentenary Stakes, but his stable could still get among the winners with Third Dimension in the Britannia Handicap. When breaking its maiden at Limerick, the son of Dubawi accounted for Table Rock and Maskoon, the winners of three races in the meantime.
This will be tough for Third Dimension off a mark of 95 for 8st 12lb. Still, he has a life at around 16/1 with Colin Keane taking 3lbs off his back.
2.30 The Great War
4.25 Leading Light
5.00 Third Dimension
5.35 Fire Fighting
Irish IndependentFollow @IndoSport