Royal Ascot 2019
Sunday 9th June 2019
Stradivarius a Strong Favourite for Royal Ascot Repeat in Gold Cup
As the reigning champion stayer, Stradivarius is the horse the field have to beat as he bids to defend the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday, 20 June.
Trained by John Gosden, the five-year-old took on all-comers when winning all five of his races last season. After warming up for the Gold Cup with victory in the Yorkshire Cup, Stradivarius landed a second success at Royal Ascot in the ultimate test for Flat staying horses in the UK.
He then followed-up with Goodwood Cup glory and scooped the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million bonus with yet another victory in the Lonsdale Cup at the Ebor Festival in York. Stradivarius even completed a five-timer on far from ideal soft ground by capturing the Long Distance Cup back at Ascot on British Champions Day.
After returning over an arguably inadequate 1m 6f and retaining the Yorkshire Cup, Stradivarius heads horse racing betting on the Gold Cup with 888Sport at a top-price 13/8 with good reason. He has thus won his last six starts – all Group 2 and Group 1 races – and is the leading form on offer.
The leading French stayer of recent years, Vazirabad, is injured and will not re-oppose at Royal Ascot after chasing Stradivarius home last year. Call The Wind, who won the Prix du Cadran, on Arc weekend last October, has been below par in two starts this season and that has resulted in him forfeiting his early Gold Cup entry.
With Holdthasigreen also out of Royal Ascot, any real cross-Channel challenge looks very blunt. Called To The Bar (16/1) looks the only French raider who could turn up and the gelding has always had the caveat of his victories over 1m 7f have come when getting weight for more lauded rivals.
It’s not clear which, if any, of the Aidan O’Brien trained contingent will turn up in the Gold Cup. St Leger winner Kew Gardens shaped like a stayer throughout last season and has lost all three starts since dropping back in the trip from the Doncaster Classic over an extended 1m 6f.
While the four-year-old would enjoy 1lb weight-for-age from Stradivarius in the Gold Cup, he also holds an entry in the Hardwicke Stakes like many of his Ballydoyle stable companions. Kew Gardens is an 8/1 shot if taking the champion stayer on.
Southern France ran against Stradivarius at York last time out, but the St Leger third was beaten despite receiving a penalty. If re-opposing in the Gold Cup, he will be worse off at the weights and it’s hard to see how reversing the form is possible.
With Southern France at 10/1 like Irish Leger winner Flag Of Honour, who is winless in five subsequent start to his Curragh triumph, there is a sense that connections don’t believe they can beat Stradivarius.
It thus falls to the home team and the globetrotting Godolphin gelding Cross Counter to challenge. After making history as the first British trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup, Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old raided another valuable international race in the Dubai Gold Cup.
The form doesn’t have the same strength to it as that posted by Stradivarius. Cross Counter is nonetheless rated the most likely to stop him at 9/2 – ahead of last year’s Epsom Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee.
Mark Johnston’s up-and-coming stayer is two from two over 2m, winning consecutive Group 3 contests including the Sagaro Stakes on Royal Ascot Trials Day. Dee Ex Bee is a 6/1 shot for Gold Cup glory for the Middleham trainer who saddled Double Trigger to do just that back in 1995.