Wednesday 20 February 2019

Desert Skyline to reach Gold heights for Elsworth

Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: PA
Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: PA

Marcus Armytage

Order Of St George attempts to become only the second horse since World War II - the other was Kayf Tara - to regain an Ascot Gold Cup, having won it in 2016 and been the narrowest of runners-up last year.

Advancing years are not usually a problem for stayers; after all Yeats was eight when he won his record fourth Gold Cup in 2009, but Aidan O'Brien's six-year-old is unlikely to be improving and faces stiff competition.

It is not always the case elsewhere but you pretty much know what you will get from Order Of St George; he gets the trip, arguably should have won three instead of two of his four Ascot starts and, if tactically Big Orange got the jump on him a year ago, then one presumes a lesson was learned.

Bjorn Nielsen's home-bred son of Sea The Stars, Stradivarius, won the Queen's Vase - the route taken by the Queen's 2013 Gold Cup winner Estimate - last year and has built upon that success with wins in the Goodwood Cup, and this season, the Yorkshire Cup.

He has, however, not raced beyond two miles and Frankie Dettori will be hoping there is no frenetic early pace.

Last year Jessica Harrington, who once more attempts to join Vincent O'Brien as the only trainer to win both the Cheltenham and Ascot Gold Cups during their career, had Torcedor ridden conservatively because of stamina concerns. I am not sure in finishing fifth those fears were allayed.

But there is another trainer who can join the other famous legendary O'Brien as a winner of both Gold Cups.

Almost three decades after Desert Orchid landed one of the most dramatic Cheltenham Gold Cups and almost 40 years after the trainer's first Ascot winner - another Dessie, this time Desert Skyline, can serve David Elsworth a huge slice of Gold Cup history. If Desert Skyline, which only starts warming up at two miles and won the Doncaster Cup on his only start over further than that, has a heart half the size of Persian Punch he can win.

O'Brien, meanwhile, got among the winners yesterday as Kew Gardens led home a Ballydoyle 1-2-3 under Ryan Moore in the Queen's Vase. There was a second Irish-trained winner as David Marnane's Settle For Bay (16/1) scorched clear under Billy Lee in the Royal Hunt Cup. Fellow Irish raider, Saltonstall, cruised to the front on the far side of the track, but then started to fade. Towards the centre, having raced with near side group, Settle For Bay quickened impressively and provided Marnane with a second Royal winner after Dandy Boy's Wokingham success in the 2012.

There was a shock in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes as Michael Stoute became the winning-most trainer in Royal Ascot history when, 41 years after his first, Poet's Word (11/2) became his 76th winner at the meeting by upsetting 2/5 favourite Cracksman. Stoute only had to wait just over an hour for his 77th as Expert Eye (8/1) sluiced up in the Jersey Stakes.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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