Just nine Ascot Gold Cup entries have been made for the royal meeting’s feature Grade 1 for Flat stayers next week, and they do not include Kew Gardens.
A Long Distance Cup rematch with Stradivarius was set to be one of the highlights of Britain’s premier Flat festival, but Ballydoyle confirmed the 2018 St Leger scorer wasn’t pleasing them at home.
Aidan O’Brien makes no Ascot Gold Cup entries at all which sent the ante post betting on the 2m 4f contest into meltdown. They had hoped to get a run from Kew Gardens this year.
It leaves Stradivarius an odds-on favourite with bookmakers for a fourth consecutive Royal Ascot success and hat-trick in this race.
The likes of last year’s Ascot Gold runner-up Dee Ex Bee and third Master Of Reality aren’t entered either. Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song runs at The Curragh on Friday evening instead of the royal meeting.
This is a bitter blow for one of Royal Ascot’s main events. The opposition to Stradivarius now comes from last year’s fourth Cross Counter – one of two entered by Godolphin and retained trainer Charlie Appleby.
There is also Martyn Meade’s Prix Royal-Oak scorer Technician and last year’s St Leger third Nayef Road.
The latter won the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes, moved from Ascot to Newcastle, which is a Gold Cup trial. That form could be put to the test as the third, Prince Of Arran, and seventh, Withhold, may re-oppose.
Emmet Mullins’ German import Oriental Eagle, Moonlight Spirit and Meeong complete Ascot Gold Cup entries this year.
Analysis: Ascot Gold Cup entries create betting bedlam
Jamie Clark, Horsebetting.com Editor
On paper, this now looks like one of the worst Gold Cups in recent Royal Ascot history. That is not disparaging the entries in this most unusual of seasons, but because of who isn’t turning up.
Stradivarius has a legacy. A career at stud after he retires looks certain, but the quality of opposition – especially here – can be called into question.
Getting a racehorse ready for a race as demanding as the Gold Cup without prep runs in tough. For many connections, there simply hasn’t been time to do that.
It shows how the status of the staying division on the Flat has diminished. The Gold Cup is a historic and valuable prize, but no takers from Ballydoyle.
Kew Gardens had a similar setback around this time last year and “the lads” of Coolmore don’t have a substitute. The Irish challenge, usually so strong in this race, is nonexistent.
That has handed the Gold Cup hat-trick to Stradivarius in betting market terms at least. He is a prohibitive price for a renewal lacking both strength and depth.
Cross Counter did not really stay the trip in last year’s race. Technician is a new challenger for Stradivarius, but he put his best foot forward on very soft autumnal ground.
Punters don’t know where to be but, on St Leger form and the likely going, Mark Johnston’s Nayef Road interests me each-way. He was in front of Technician and has advertised that Classic form with his Sagaro success since.