Britain's longest race for elite thoroughbreds can today be condensed to one short question. Will its demands close the gap dividing Fame And Glory from his inferiors? If running to his best, he would more or less lap his rivals for the Gold Cup.
Aidan O'Brien and his patrons at Ballydoyle have already demonstrated how far sheer class can take you in this company. They stepped Yeats up from middle distances to win this race four years running, and were doubly cursed with his replacement last year. Age Of Aquarius bumped into an unusually talented stayer here, in Rite Of Passage, and then broke down on his next start.
Happily O'Brien's hands have since been freed with Fame And Glory by the availability of Await The Dawn, St Nicholas Abbey and So You Think. Having threatened to prove only a bit player over middle distances, Fame And Glory could be re-invented as a top-class stayer.
The trouble is that neither of his experiments to date beyond a mile and a half have had the lustre of, say, his defeat of Sariska in the Coronation Cup last year. Many will recoil from the short odds against his name, wondering not only whether he is quite as good as he was, but also if he will last the extreme test of stamina. But they are urged to take courage.
Over the years, there have been countless examples of Ballydoyle horses finding their feet with low-key comeback runs. And if Fame And Glory did not make terribly obvious progress, when winning over 14 furlongs at Leopardstown on his next start, then it is worth remembering how easily he travelled before making unexpectedly hard work of landing the odds.
That was a typical, half-hearted trial race. You can bet that O'Brien, having trained him for this very different discipline, will have a bit of fire back in the horse's belly today. On pedigree, moreover, it would be surprising were Fame And Glory (3.45) to fail for stamina.
With no Rite Of Passage this time, the most respected of the opposition is Blue Bajan. His revival is the most remarkable of many achieved by David O'Meara, an exceptional young trainer, during his very first year with a licence.
O'Brien meanwhile has grounds for hoping that his son, Joseph, can ride a first Ascot winner on Apache (5.35), but may surrender the Ribblesdale Stakes to his traditional adversaries at Godolphin through Rumh (3.05).
Luca Cumani's Alkimos (5.0) looks irresistibly in the mould of Afsare, as he attempts to emulate his stablemate's success last year, while Everyday Dave (2.30) is another Wesley Ward speedball who could leave innocent British youngsters standing. And though the Britannia looks as daunting a stampede as ever, Dimension (4.25) is good value to improve for a stronger gallop.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Apache (5.35 Ascot) Top weight may look tough on a horse who took four attempts to win his maiden but he has repeatedly looked a smart one in the making, and is ideally berthed next to the rail.
Dimension (4.25 Ascot) Trainer does not waste his bullets here and significant that he perseveres after this one failed in his first handicap. Low draw, but could weave through late on.
One to watch
Leviathan (Tony Newcombe) Again looked up to exploit a fair mark for his new stable when travelling powerfully before fading at York on Saturday.
Where the money's going
Hinchinbrook, 11-1 from 16s with Hill's for Saturday's Golden Jubilee Stakes.Reuse content