Light can lead the way

Although the Aidan O’Brien stable is yet to get on the scoreboard at this week’s Royal Ascot meeting, Magician, Verrazano and Giovanni Boldini, amongst others, have provided enough evidence to suggest Ballydoyle’s raiding party is in pretty good shape.

Light can lead the way

With that in mind, it's hard to look beyond Leading Light in today's Ascot Gold Cup. The son of Montjeu had a near-perfect season in 2013, winning four times before finding the competition too hot in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on his final start.

He made his return at Navan last month and while the stable was struggling to find consistency, he ran out a comfortable winner over Royal Diamond. That answered the questions we may have with regard to his well-being, and he's sure to be better for the run.

Last year's form included victory in the two-mile Queen's Vase at this meeting, though the form itself is nothing to get too excited about. Essentially, he beat a vastly inferior rival, giving away just three pounds. However, he found plenty when put under pressure to win that day, and posted an improved effort when winning the Doncaster St Leger on his next start.

Today's two-and-a-half-mile trip is not certain to be within reach but he is entitled to have grown stronger over the winter, and shapes as though he has the stamina to get home. With no concerns over the track or the ground, he is a worthy favourite and likely to be very hard to beat.

Estimate won this race in 2013, getting the better of Simenon in a thrilling finish. The Michael Stoute-trained mare has run just once since, finishing seventh, behind Royal Diamond on soft ground in the Long Distance Cup at this track in October. She has something to find with Leading Light on official figures, but her guaranteed stamina is a positive.

German raider Altano is interesting at a much bigger price. He was fifth in this race last year, when the early dawdle didn't play to his strengths. He tends to get outpaced when the pace picks up but finishes with real purpose. Off a stronger early pace, he would be a danger and could represent each-way value, though softer ground would make him a stronger fancy.

The globe-trotting Simenon, runner-up last year, hasn't been in the same form this year and is likely to struggle to go one place better, while the Mick Winters-trained Missunited would provide a great story but will need to progress significantly. She has something to find with Dermot Weld's Pale Mimosa on 2013 Saval Beg Stakes form.

Brown Panther is an unexposed stayer who is likely to come in for support. He shapes as a thorough stayer but concedes a couple of pounds to Leading Light, who is rated superior.

Inevitably, the race will come down to stamina, and if Leading Light stays well enough, he should give Aidan O'Brien his sixth victory in the race in nine renewals.

In the Tercentenary Stakes, Michael Stoute's Cannock Chase can take the step up in class in his stride. This rapidly progressive son of Lemon Drop Kid has quite a bit to find on ratings, but he's the type his trainer excels with.

Stormadal is likely to set the pace - the stronger the better for the selection. Cannock Chase and the strong-travelling Barley Mow look the two to concentrate on, with the former just preferred.

Aidan O'Brien's Great War will go off a short price for the Norfolk Stakes, as he has looked a real speedball on his two outings to date. It's hard to imagine he'll be out of the frame, but Mark Johnston's Mukhmal could represent value at 6-1. The latter showed terrific speed when overcoming a poor draw last time at Chester, and could be hard to peg back this afternoon.

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