'Light' proves a leading hope for Ascot Gold Cup
AIDAN O'Brien has another live Royal Ascot Gold Cup candidate on his hands after Leading Light made an impressive return to action in yesterday's Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan.
The Doncaster St Leger hero was running for the first time since finishing down the field in the Arc last October and took closer order behind the front-running Royal Diamond with a half a mile to travel.
With the latter sticking to the far rail, Joseph O'Brien's mount came down the centre with Pale Mimosa, and the even-money favourite loomed large two furlongs out. When asked, Leading Light responded sweetly and went nicely clear in the final 200 yards to win with three lengths in hand from Royal Diamond.
"You'd have to be very happy with him, you couldn't be happier really," said O'Brien Snr. "We haven't seen the bottom of him yet, at the end of two miles at Ascot last year (Queen's Vase) he didn't seem to be stopping so we will look forward to that (Gold Cup) and he could run in the Saval Beg before that."
Coral and Ladbrokes cut Leading Light to 2/1 favourite for the Ascot showpiece. O'Brien doubled up when Leading Light's full-brother John Constable (5/4 favourite) stayed on strongly in the Excelebration Maiden.
The three-year-old was getting off the mark at the sixth time of asking, beating Karezak by three-quarters of a length. Like his brother last year, he could be aimed at the Queen's Vase at the Royal meeting.
Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen didn't have to wait long for their customary winner as they combined to land the opening six-furlong maiden with Sailors Swan.
Fourth to Ebanoran at the Curragh on his sole juvenile outing, the son of Henrythenavigator was installed 11/8 favourite and only needed to be pushed out to beat Body Beautiful by three and a half lengths.
"He'll go for a handicap now and that trip is about right for him," Weld said. "We ran him over seven furlongs as a two-year-old and we thought we'd come back in trip with him."
Christina Simpson enjoyed a moment to remember as she rode her fist ever winner on Above The Law (16/1) in the six-furlong handicap. The 20-year-old, who claims 10lb and is from Tynan in Armagh, was in front from an early stage on the Andrew Oliver-trained gelding and did really well to keep all at bay as the challengers loomed from two out. Chillie Billie got closest but was still a length and a half down at the line.
The in-form Weld suffered a rare reverse as Gary Carroll got Dandyleekie up right on the line to foil Araner in the juvenile maiden over five furlongs.
Araner, backed into 8/11 favourite, was quickly sent into the lead along the rail by Smullen and looked like he would prevail, but he was was strongly pressed by Ger Lyons' newcomer through the final furlong.
The pair flashed past the post almost as one, but 16/1 chance Dandyleekie got the verdict by a head.
Eddie Lynam was on the scoresheet as 4/1 favourite More Questions provided the answers to the five-furlong handicap in the hands of Leigh Roche for his third course success.
Lynam said: "I think there is a race for him here next month, and I think we will keep him for here as he is not as good anywhere else."
Lynam doubled up as Odisseia (7/2) and Fergal Lynch took the fillies Handicap.