06/18/2013 1:44PM

Royal Ascot: Estimate favored in large field for Gold Cup


The long and short of Thursday’s card at Royal Ascot, respectively, are the Group 1 Gold Cup and the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes. The Gold Cup, for older horses, is contested over 2 1/2 miles, while the Norfolk is a five-furlong dash for 2-year-olds.

Also on the six-race card are the Group 2 Ribblesdale for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/2 miles and the Group 2 Tercentenary Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles.

The Gold Cup is one of the biggest stayers’ races in Europe and drew an especially large field of 18. And while most horses who excel in long-distance races such as the Gold Cup learn over several years, the horse widely favored in antepost betting on the race, Estimate, is a mere babe in arms at age 4.

Trained by Michael Stoute for the Queen of England, Estimate raced over one mile in his career debut during fall 2011 but was immediately bumped up to longer trips when the heart of his career commenced the next spring. He won a maiden race over 1 1/2 miles in his first start at 3 and appeared to relish a two-mile journey in winning the Group 3 Queen’s Vase during the 2012 Royal Ascot meeting.

Estimate, a son of Monsun, evidently was made to marathon, and he has every right to continue improving after a win in his 2013 debut in the Sagaro Stakes, a two-mile race on the Ascot course.

The 6-year-old Simenon is one member of the bulky Gold Cup group who can claim course and distance success, having won the 2 1/2-mile Ascot Stakes during Royal Ascot 2012. The Dermot Weld-trained Rite of Passage is another, though he has made a mere two starts since capturing the 2010 Ascot Gold Cup.

Saddler’s Rock, another relative youngster at age 5, was last seen in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan, where his rider’s saddle slipped early in the race, costing him any chance at victory.

Wesley Ward, and American trailblazer at Royal Ascot, fared poorly with his first starter of the meet this year as Ogermeister finished 15th on Tuesday in the Windsor Castle Stakes. But a few weeks ago, the horse whose Royal Ascot chances most excited Ward was No Nay Never, a sharp Keeneland debut winner who goes in the Norfolk. No Nay Never’s win came on Polytrack, but as a son of Scat Daddy and an Elusive Quality mare, he should feel at home on grass.

The Tercentenary drew several 3-year-olds who for various reasons failed to make an impact in classic races this spring. Chopin was a somewhat-troubled seventh last out in the Epsom Derby, while Secret Number was a somewhat-disappointing sixth in the Dante Stakes – failing to earn a Derby start there – and Van der Neer struggled home eighth in the Irish 2000 Guineas after a third in the English version of that race.