For so many the highlight of the week, Cecil used to dominate the oldest race of the meeting, winning it five times between 1979 and 1987.
In Manifest he appears to have a horse ready made to fill the huge void left by Yeats.
In winning the Yorkshire Cup on his last start, the four-year-old colt greatly impressed his big-race pilot Tom Queally.
“The Ascot Gold Cup is a race I would dearly love to win and Manifest presents me with a great opportunity to do just that,” said Queally.
“Henry has a fantastic record in the race and it would be great to win it for him. Manifest was so impressive at York, and while I always thought he was a very good horse, his manner of victory certainly surprised me.
“This is obviously a big step up in trip from a mile and three-quarters to two and a half miles, but on the evidence of his run at York, where he galloped all the way the line, I think he’ll stay.
“What’s exciting is that he’s still learning and hopefully there’s more improvement in him as he’s only run five times.
“Ask is a big danger but he has not had a prep run which could count against him, although if you want a trainer to prime a horse, there aren’t many better around than Sir Michael Stoute. That said, I think we’ve got a massive chance.”
Aidan O’Brien this year relies on Age Of Aquarius in the absence of the retired Yeats, but he is another who has never tried anything remotely near two and a half miles before.
“He has a lot of class and we always thought he could be a Cup horse. He handles fast ground, is a very determined horse and has a high cruising speed,” said O’Brien.
“He ran at Chester and at Leopardstown and we were very happy with both runs. We’re really looking forward to running him.
“The thing about the Gold Cup – and we tried to win it a lot of years before Yeats came along – is that very few horses have that kind of class and ability to stay the trip.
“Before they run in it you have no idea whether they will stay or not. Once a year is enough to ask them, but you don’t really know until they get out there.
“A lot of things can happen from when they turn in and the winning post.”
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor has a good record in the race, having won it four times with Classic Cliche (1996), Kayf Tara (1998, 2000) and Papineau (2004).
This year he has two solid chances with last season’s St Leger runner-up Kite Wood and Cesarewitch winner Darley Sun.
“Kite Wood won a Group Two over a mile and seven furlongs in France and he has been in good form since that race,” said Bin Suroor.
“He handled that distance well and I think he will stay the Gold Cup trip as long as he settles.
“Kite Wood has been working really well since his first run but he needs to settle.
“Usually he sweats a lot but tomorrow we need to see him dry and happy, that’s important for him.
“Even though Yeats isn’t there this year the Gold Cup is a very good race, there’s some good horses there.
“Kite Wood has the class, he was second in the St Leger last year and is a Group Two winner this year. We know Darley Sun has the stamina because he’s won the Cesarewitch and he ran a really nice race first time out, but he’ll need to improve to win the Gold Cup.”
Akmal enjoyed a great summer last year, winning seven races, and got back on the winning trail in the Henry II last time out.
“He’s a dear old horse, as tough as they come and thoroughly enjoys his work,” said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
“He won nicely last time at Sandown, it was a great ride from Richard (Hills). He’s stepping up in trip and he’s stepping up in class.
“It’s anybody’s guess, but he’s in good form.”
The owner also runs Tastahil, trained by Barry Hills, beaten just a head in the Chester Cup.