Royal Ascot Gold Cup Runners: Stradivarius the one to beat

Stradivarius is a warm favourite to land a third Gold Cup crown.
Stradivarius is a warm favourite to land a third Gold Cup crown.

We take an in-depth look at the eight runners set to line up in the Ascot Gold Cup at 15:35 on Thursday afternoon, in which Stradivarius bids for a third win in a row in the Royal Ascot showpiece...

1. Cross Counter (James Doyle/Charlie Appleby)

A spectacular winner of the 2018 Melbourne Cup, Cross Counter was unable to land a significant blow in the 2019 Gold Cup, as he could only finish fourth in the staying feature. Well beaten on his last start in Saudi Arabia in February, the five-year-old is much better than that, so while he has form to turn around with Stradivarius from last year's renewal, he is a class act on his day and has to be respected for Charlie Appleby.

2. Mekong (Jim Crowley/Jamie Osborne)

Last seen finishing a surprise second in the aforementioned Riyadh handicap event in Saudi Arabia in February, Mekong will venture into Group 1 company for the first time in his career. A creditable fourth behind Kew Gardens and Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot on British Champions Day, the five-year-old is one that will relish the soft conditions at the Berkshire venue, as he has winning form in heavy ground.

3. Prince Of Arran (Andrea Atzeni/Charlie Fellowes)

A real globe-trotting stayer, who like the two aforementioned runners featured in the Riyadh Handicap four months ago, and he was another to finish ahead of Cross Counter, as Prince Of Arran bagged fourth spot in the valuable prize. With only three wins in 32 outings on turf, the Charlie Fellowes-trained seven-year-old has often played a supporting role in decent races, and having been well beat in the Sagaro Stakes at Newcastle, it's hard to fancy him here.

4. Stradivarius (Frankie Dettori/John Gosden)

A perfect five from five over trips of two miles or more, Stradivarius will head into the 2020 Gold Cup as the one to beat, as he aims to bag a third win on the bounce for John Gosden and Stradivarius. A sparkling winning streak came to an end last season in the Long Distance Cup as he was beaten by Kew Gardens, but that contender won't take his chance here, and he should strip fitter for an outing over an inadequate of one mile, four furlongs in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket earlier this month. Sets the standard.

5. Withhold (Jason Watson/Roger Charlton)

This 2017 Cesarewitch and 2018 Northumberland Plate winner has shown that he can dominate in the handicap sphere, but a step into top-class company could see Withhold struggle. Roger Charlton's raider was well beaten in the Long Distance Cup at the end of last season, while he showed no real positive signs when down the field in the Sagaro Stakes in his comeback run. Tough ask.

6. Moonlight Spirit (William Buick/Charlie Appleby)

A lightly-raced four-year-old who showed he relishes a stamina test when finishing fourth in the 2019 Queen's Vase Stakes at Royal Ascot. A Group 3 win at Longchamp after the royal meeting showed that he was still on the upgrade, and while he will need to produce a career best to feature here, he is one of the unknown quantities in the field.

7. Nayef Road (Ryan Moore/Mark Johnston)

A busy three-year-old campaign saw Nayef Road put up some decent staying performances, and he could be another surprise package as a four-year-old. Third in the Queen's Vase here last year, Mark Johnston's charge then went on to win the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He kicked off this season with a superb win in the Sagaro Stakes, which shows stamina could be his forte, and he could well improve further for another step up in trip. Interesting.

8. Technician (Oisin Murphy/Martyn Meade)

No match for Nayef Road in the Gordon Stakes last season, Technician then disappointed in the St Leger at Doncaster, but he stormed back into the limelight when landing a brace of Group events at Longchamp. He sparkled in heavy conditions when winning the Prix Royal-Oak on his last outing, and a repeat of that Group 1-winning performance in testing conditions again should see him on the vicinity.

Ascot Gold Cup

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