Royal Ascot: “His Profile Is On The Rise.” Gold Cup Beckons For Eldar Eldarov

Eldar Eldarov | Racingfotos.com

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If there is a trend for the G1 Gold Cup that can't be ignored, it's the potency of 4-year-olds in recent times and Thursday's renewal features a trio who all carry much intrigue into the contest. In a race void of the benchmark horse Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) and 2022's emerging force Kyprios (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), the most open Gold Cup in years is once again there for the young fledgling stayers. Since 2012, there have been nine individual winners and all bar Big Orange (GB) (Duke Of Marmalade {Ire}) were coming out of their Classic season which bodes well for KHK Racing's TDN Rising Star Eldar Eldarov (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}). Like Estimate (Ire) (Monsun {Ger}), Leading Light (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}) and Stradivarius, he already has a G2 Queen's Vase on his resume and his success in the G1 St Leger reads ever stronger with each passing month.

Sharpened by a creditable return under a penalty in the G2 Yorkshire Cup last month, Eldar Eldarov shaped like a true “Cup” horse there and Roger Varian is relishing having one of that kind in the member of Kirsten Rausing's amazing dynasty of Alpinista (GB) (Frankel {GB}) et al. “The Gold Cup is one of those iconic races, it's got masses of history and there is always something nice about having a good staying horse,” he said. “A horse like Eldar Eldarov might be in the camp for two or three years to come yet and as we have seen with some of those good staying horses, they can capture the public imagination as well.”

“He's got a long way to go before he's held in any similar regard to any of those top staying horses, but he has won a Queen's Vase, he's won a St Leger and his profile is on the rise, I think,” Varian added. “It's exciting to get him back out and back to Ascot, he obviously won at the Royal meeting last year and it is very exciting to have such a strong contender for the Gold Cup.”

The remaining 4-year-olds are Wathnan Racing's unknown quantity Courage Mon Ami (GB) (Frankel {GB}), unbeaten and yet to be fully extended in non-black-type starts over no further than 14 furlongs, and Ballydoyle's Leger fifth Emily Dickinson (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}). Despite his lack of obvious credentials for this, Courage Mon Ami is thrown in by the Gosdens who you could say know a thing or two about the quality required for this meeting's demands. Sometimes, when you have one that wins three races by a cumulative margin of 13 3/4 lengths you just have to take the plunge. It is fair to say that Aidan O'Brien also knows something about training Royal Ascot winners and he has been talking for a while now about how Emily Dickinson is yearning for this marathon distance.

No horse in the line-up would be more deserving of Gold Cup glory than the Mariscottis' Coltrane (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}), who was sent to the Ascot S. on the Tuesday of last year's meeting but now features prominently in the one that matters. When it comes to going into the red over this kind of distance, he and arch-rival Trueshan (Fr) (Planteur {Ire}) know how to keep digging down but this promises to be a different test now that the ground is drying. Two who have yet to go anywhere near this far are the class act Yibir (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), who bids to end a long drought for Godolphin, and the 2021 Irish Derby runner-up Lone Eagle (Ire), the sole progeny of Galileo (Ire) in the line-up.

Whereas the Coventry normally takes precedence over the G2 Norfolk S., this year's renewal of the five-furlong test is as least as strong as the opening day's juvenile feature. TDN Rising Stars American Rascal (Curlin), Noche Magica (Ire) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) and Devious (GB) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) take aim at Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's emphatic Listed National S. winner Elite Status (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}), while there is also the Royal Palm Juvenile S. winner No Nay Mets (Ire) (No Nay Never) bidding to provide George Weaver with a double at the meeting as well as Ballydoyle's unexposed Listed First Flier S. scorer His Majesty (Ire) (No Nay Never).

Wesley Ward has yet to get in on the action this week, but American Rascal is a special member of the team being a son of Lady Aurelia (Scat Daddy). “Everything is unbelievable with American Rascal, it's all systems forward,” he said. “He's travelled great, been training great. We couldn't be happier with him. American Rascal is the star of the show for us, anyway.”

There is no let-up in the action as Thursday unfolds, with the G2 Ribblesdale S. featuring Shadwell's supplemented Listed Agnes Keyser S. winner Al Asifah (GB) (Frankel {GB}), as exciting a middle-distance filly as there is about in 2023. Shadwell's Angus Gold said, “In everyone's opinion she is a filly of great potential, but it is a big step up and we'll see where she fits in a bit more after we see her in the Ribblesdale. It's all come a bit quick for her, which is normally not our way, but equally because she seems to have taken her Goodwood race well. Sheikha Hissa is going to be here, we wanted her to have the chance to see the filly and she was keen to see her, so it just fits in time-wise.”

After a cold Spring which may have kept the better fillies back from the Classics, this could be an above-average Ribblesdale. Ballydoyle's rock-solid Listed Haras de Bouquetot Fillies' Trial S. scorer Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) should keep progressing, even though she maybe caught Juddmonte's returning TDN Rising Star Bluestocking (GB) (Camelot {GB}) unawares in that Newbury contest. Fellow TDN Rising Star Infinite Cosmos (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) comes out of a decent effort for the Rothschild-Stoute connection in the G3 Musidora S., while the G1 Prix Saint-Alary third Crown Princesse (Fr) (Zarak {Fr}) has had the form of her G3 Prix Cleopatre success boosted by the big performance of that race's runner-up Elusive Princess (Fr) (Martinborough {Jpn}) in Sunday's G1 Prix de Diane.

Barry Mahon said of Bluestocking, “She was so green at Newbury on her second start, you would like to think she is going to improve. Ralph [Beckett] is happy with her and she's been training nicely. It's a big jump up, the Gosden filly looked exceptional last week and I know Sir Michael thinks an awful lot of his filly. It could be a pretty strong renewal, but we like our filly and I think she is going in the right direction. Whether that is in the Ribblesdale or later in the season, I think she will develop into a top filly.”

Even in the King George V S., a handicap that has played host to Hukum (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) and the subsequent G2 Great Voltigeur S. runner-up Secret State (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), there is a strong likelihood of seeing a future middle-distance star with the weights headed by the London Gold Cup winner Bertinelli (Justify). Juddmonte's Perfuse (GB) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) looks a Sir Michael Stoute project on the way up the ladder, while the G3 Hampton Court S. is dominated by a pair of homebreds of George Strawbridge in the highly-tried TDN Rising Star Epictetus (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) and the progressive Lester Piggott H. winner Torito (GB) (Kingman {GB}). Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum has had some meeting and the Crisfords' unbeaten Bolster (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) is one of the race's more intriguing contenders, while how about a first Royal winner for Jack Channon? His Oaks third Caernarfon (GB) (Cityscape {GB}) takes on the colts here as she bids to add to West Ilsley's long tradition of Ascot glory.

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