Friday 25 May 2018

Ask can answer Gold questions

Damien McElroy

Age Of Aquarius has giant shoes to fill at Royal Ascot this afternoon when stepping into the Gold Cup spotlight in which former stable companion Yeats reigned supreme for the past four years to carve his name in flat-racing history.

That's a tall order for any horse, never mind one yet to succeed this season, so Johnny Murtagh will probably be more hopeful than confident of Age Of Aquarius proving up to the task on his first outing over two and a half miles at this level.

Champion trainer Aidan O'Brien seems happy enough that he has the right colt once more for the marathon test.

"Our horse handles fast ground, is very determined and has a high cruising speed," he remarked.

For most of the 13-strong field, this extreme flat distance for a Group 1 contest represents a shot in the dark stamina-wise, although the likes of Kasbah Bliss and Dermot Weld's equally versatile Rite Of Passage are used to such missions over timber.

Whether either of these money-spinners can cut the mustard in such exalted company as prime market fancies Manifest, runaway winner of the Yorkshire Cup, Age Of Aquarius, Ask and Kite Wood is open to conjecture.

The latter, which Frankie Dettori not surprisingly prefers to Darley Sun, held off Kasbah Bliss over almost two miles last month at Longchamp in an identical affair to that in which Ask defeated Schiaparelli there last October on soft ground.

Should he cope as efficiently with this quicker surface, Ask, which landed Epsom's Coronation Cup and was only touched off in the Canadian International at Woodbine, might reward each-way support in the colours of Tipperary-born Patrick Fahey.

Six of the nine Irish-based runners in action today hail from Ballydoyle and the O'Brien-Murtagh alliance principally rely elsewhere on Fencing Master (Hampton Court Stakes) and hat-trick seeker Bright Horizon for the final handicap.

Dropping back in grade from Classic level to Listed company, Fencing Master probably has Luca Cumani's Afsare in the hands of previous Ballydoyle kingpin Kieren Fallon to fear most in the ten furlongs event.

West Cork-based John Murphy has secured another former Irish champion Jamie Spencer's services for Top Spin in the King George V Stakes, off a mark 8lb lower than Bright Horizon ended up after his recent Curragh win.


3.05 -- Gertrude Bell

3.50 -- Ask (each-way)

5.00 -- Afsare

5.35 -- Bright Horizon

Irish Independent

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