If you believe in follow the market signals then there is only one horse you would want to back on Thursday 19th June in the Ascot Gold Cup, and that is Leading Light, last year’s impressive Aidan O’Brien-trained St Leger winner, writes Elliot Slater.
The racing betting market has been all about the 2013 classic winner who saw off the classy Oaks winner Talent to score on Town Moor last September, having previously won over two miles at last year’s Royal Ascot fixture showing bags of stamina and a willing attitude to win on quick ground. Those attributes may very well stand him in good stead over the marathon two-and-a-half-mile trip of the showcase race at the wonderful five-day fixture that starts on June 17.
Prior to his seasonal reappearance at Navan last month Leading Light was available at up to 4/1 in the ante-post racing betting for the Gold Cup, but those odds quickly disappeared as the son of Montjeu delivered a commanding performance to easily account for previous Irish St Leger winner Royal Diamond by three lengths.
With the vibes coming out of Ballydoyle suggesting their stayer is doing everything right in his preparation for the big day, punters have well and truly latched on to Leading Light who has been forced down through all rates and is now a rock solid 13/8 market leader (with Bet365) to give O’Brien his five success in the race in the last eight years; four of those wins came with the mighty Yeats who landed the premier stayers’ contest four years in a row between 2006 – 2009.
If he does justify his lofty market position Leading Light will be seen by many as the potential villain of the piece if he lowers the colours of The Queen’s beloved filly Estimate, who brought the house down at Royal Ascot last year when giving her owner-breeder her first success in the race after more than half a century of trying to land the prize. Estimate has only had one run since then and that proved disappointing when she filled just seventh place behind Royal Diamond in the Group 3 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup in October.
A minor setback and being somewhat slower than usual to come to hand has caused the royal filly to be absent from racing so far this season, and while master trainer Sir Michael Stoute has admitted recently to feeling the pressure to have her ready to defend her crown reports suggest the five-year-old is working nicely again and should give a good account of herself.
Another popular horse who features prominently in the racing betting for the coveted Ascot Gold Cup is former England football legend Michael Owen’s home-bred Brown Panther, really impressive when slamming a field of useful stayers in the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown in May, whilst Marco Botti’s Tac De Boistron, winner of the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in April and a good runner-up since at York in the Yorkshire Cup, is another serious contender in what promises to be a tremendous contest.