Royal Ascot Gold Cup

O'Brien adds sixth Gold Cup to his trophy cabinet

Thursday, 19 June 2014 was Gold Cup day at Royal Ascot.  While hopes were high for a Royal double, the troubled Estimate fought courageously, but Aidan O’Brien’s charge Leading Light proved too good on the day.

2013 St Leger winner Leading Light’s dam was a five-furlong winner at this meeting, and though he stayed well to win the St Leger last September, he headed into the unknown in terms of his stamina with half a mile still to run. Joseph O’Brien was niggling at his partner before the home turn, but still reacted quickly to hold his ground as Estimate came alongside him in the straight. That forced Ryan Moore, on Estimate, to switch inside and go for a gap between Missunited and the weakening Brown Panther, while Leading Light maintained the momentum of his run on the outside.

O’Brien also responded immediately when his mount started to drift left within sight of the line, straightening Leading Light before driving him home by a neck from Estimate, with Missunited a short-head away in third. Moore said afterwards that he felt Estimate’s performance was better than the one which secured her the prize 12 months ago, underlining the merit of Leading Light’s success.

“When you have a tough horse on your side, it’s easier,” Joseph O’Brien said. “Ryan was looking for a bit of room, as he was well entitled to, and I was well entitled to keep the room that I had. When I got to the front my horse had a little look and he just wandered a little bit left, probably because he was getting tired.  He is as tough as nails, but I think his optimum trip is probably a mile and three-quarters to two miles. At that trip he would have a bit more zip at the end, but he’s tough and he keeps pulling it out.”

Aidan O’Brien has now saddled more Gold Cup winners than any trainer in history, moving to six with this victory and out of a tie with, among others, Sir Henry Cecil and two great names of the distant past, John Porter and Alec Taylor.  “Two-and-a-half miles around here really tests a horse’s courage and it takes a very brave horse to win it,” commented O’Brien, who watched the race near the statue of his four-time winner Yeats. “A lot of stuff can happen but until you turn in and you face that last three furlongs after the full two miles before it, that’s when courage has to kick in.  We always hoped that he would [stay the trip]. We’ve had some horses running a little bit ordinary this week, but this horse had taken a lot of work and taken it well, which is usually a good sign. I don’t think the last three furlongs have seemed as long in a race for a long time, it was so nip and tuck. There were so many horses that could have gone by him.”

Unfortunately there was less good news for jockey Joseph O’Brien, who faces a 9 day ban for his Ascot rides.  Following the Gold Cup, the stewards held an enquiry into O’Brien’s use of the whip on Leading Light from three furlongs out.  Having heard his evidence and after viewing a recording of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he used his whip above the permitted level.  The stewards suspended O’Brien for seven days from Thursday 3rd – Wednesday 9th July 2014. Under rule (B)54, they also fined O’Brien £3,000.

The stewards also held an enquiry into the use of the whip by O’Brien on Carlo Bugatti (placed 7th) from two and a half furlongs out in the King George V Handicap.  Having heard his evidence and after viewing a recording of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he used his whip above the permitted level. They suspended O’Brien for a further two days including Thursday 10th and Monday 14th July 2014.

The stewards also noted that the Gold Cup winner, Leading Light, had interfered with Brown Panther (placed 4th), who then interfered with Estimate (placed 2nd), who then interfered with Missunited (placed 3rd) approaching the furlong market. After viewing a recording of the incident, they were satisfied that it neither involved a riding offence nor improved Leading Light’s position.

As to Estimate’s performance, the Queen’s racing manager John Warren commented, “You couldn’t ask for more.  Coming into today we thought we were going to get a pasting by horses with class and improving stayers. We thought perhaps she would run third and run a gallant race but to give the winner such a run for his money, Ryan said it was a career best. She’s going to be a lovely broodmare and it gave everyone a real thrill. There’s no reason not to run her again [this season], but she won’t run on soft ground or heavy ground like she had to last autumn.”

A highlight of the day for South African fans came in the form of a win by Cannock Chase in the second race on the day’s card, the Tercentenary Stakes.  The winner, owned by Saeed Suhail, trained by Sir Michael Stoute and bred by Hascombe Stud, was bred by Lemon Drop Kid out of Lynnwood Chase – a daughter of Horse Chestnut.

A full round-up of the day’s results is available on the Racing Post.

Friday’s card highlights include the Gr1 Coronation Stakes (folks looking for a some local interest can keep an eye out for Team Valor runner, Euro Charline and we believe Barry Irwin will be on course to cheer her home).

Friday’s Schedule

Time Race Age Prize Fund Distance
3:30pm The Albany Stakes (Group 3) 2 £70000 Six furlongs
4:05pm The Wolferton Handicap (Listed) 4+ £70000 One mile two furlongs
4:45pm The King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2) 3 C&G £185000 One mile four furlongs
5:25pm The Coronation Stakes (Group 1) 3 fillies £375000 One mile
6:00pm The Queen’s Vase (Listed) 3 £85000 Two miles
6:35pm The Buckingham Palace Stakes (Handicap) 3 £100000 Seven furlongs


A full copy of the day’s card can be found at the Racing Post and live streaming of the day’s action can be accessed via the Dubai Racing ChannelFilmon’s HRTV channel or Channel 4 feed and RacingUK offers a subscription service available here.

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