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Royal Ascot Day 3: Leading Light too strong in Gold Cup

| 19.06.2014

The bookies are still on the back foot and we’re determined to keep them there with three more selections for the third day of Royal Ascot.

NAP Leading Light (4:25 Gold Cup)

The predicted defection of Marco Botti’s Tac De Boistron has left the race wide-open for St Leger winner and clear favourite Leading Light and it would be one of the biggest shocks of the week if Aidan O’Brien’s star didn’t take the spoils.

Despite last year’s hugely popular winner Estimate lining up in defence again and the hat-trick chasing Brown Panther in attendance, neither has earned the right to be closer in the betting and the Ballydoyle entry would need to under-perform for the pair to succeed.

Brown Panther has returned this campaign seemingly better than ever with two Group 3s landed in succession at Chester and Sandown, however, it would still take a leap of faith to think he could compete with an on-song Leading Light.

Estimate’s problems have been well documented by trainer Sir Michael Stoute and the fact we haven’t seen the apple of the Queen’s eye since his roof-raising victory last year says a lot.

The mighty Yeats managed to win the race on his seasonal reappearance, however, that was a horse who finished his career with four of these and Ireland’s hero was clearly made of different stuff.

Connections were perhaps being unfair to Leading Light by chucking him into an extremely hot Arc de Triomphe less than a month on from his heroics on Town Moor but he looked better than ever on his return at Navan last month.

A three length defeat of the highly rated Royal Diamond and Pale Mimosa has forced his price so short but that seems understandable considering the opposition and the sounds coming out of Tipperary.

The quietly spoken Joseph O’Brien wasted no time in highlighting this race as the one he was looking forward to most and considering the Ballydoyle battalion that was wheeled into Berkshire this week that seems a tip in itself.

NBBaitha Alga (2:30 – Norfolk Stakes)

Frankie Dettori has already made the familiar walk to the Ascot winning enclosure this week and he could be carrying Al Shaqab’s silks across the line in front once more with impressive Woodcote winner Baitha Alga.

Richard Hannon’s juvenile couldn’t have been more impressive when powering away from a well touted field at Epsom at the beginning of the month and although this is unmistakably tougher there is no reason why the step-up should be beyond him.

Aidan O’Brien’s unbeaten The Great War could potentially be anything but considering the prices, Frankie’s partner looks the better value.

Lively Longshot Table Rock (5:00 Britannia Stakes)

Table Rock could be the answer here in one of the week’s certified minefields and although not exactly a ‘longshot’ the nature of the Britannia means the price should be relatively ‘lively’.

Aidan O’Brien’s son of Fastnet Rock hit the crossbar on his first three runs but has well and truly picked up the winning thread with a pair of victories in just over a month.

A handicap mark of 99 could be revealed to be extremely generous for a horse that looks certain to be on the upgrade and with the stable’s string nearing their peak at this time of year everything points to a bold show.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Sam Foster