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Thursday, June 19, 2014
Leading Light takes Gold Cup

By Myra Lewyn

Leading Light denied Queen Elizabeth II's Estimate a repeat victory in the Gold Cup June 19 at Royal Ascot, winning by a neck in a rousing three-horse battle, with pacesetter Missunited a game third only a head back.

Coolmore and partners' 4-year-old Leading Light, winner of last year's Queen's Vase at the Royal Ascot meet and Ladbrokes St. Leger at Doncaster in consecutive starts, was the 10-11 favorite for the Gold Cup after his victorious 2014 debut in the Vintage Crop Stakes May 18 at Navan. His Gold Cup win provided trainer Aidan O'Brien a sixth victory in the 2 ½-mile stamina test.

Tracked by Brown Panther and Royal Diamond, 7-year-old mare Missunited made a bold attempt to lead all the way with Jim Crowley. She dug in a quarter-mile out when engaged by Estimate, a 5-year-old mare who despite not having a prep race this year kicked strongly from midpack and briefly appeared to have the race in the bag for Ryan Moore. Brown Panther bid alongside Missunited and looked as if he might grab a placing.

Leading Light had energy to spare when Joseph O'Brien angled him to the outside entering the straight and asked for his run, and the two mares and Brown Panther took up the challenge when he came calling. Brown Panther weakened in the final furlong when bumped and faded out in the last 100 yards to take fourth fourth, 4 ½ lengths behind recent Saval Beg Stakes winner Missunited.

Leading Light, a son of Montjeu, was timed in 4:21.09 seconds to take the feature race on Ladies Day.

"I was rowing away on him but I had loads left; I was trying to hold off asking for everything for as long as I could," Joseph O'Brien told England's Press Association. "Ryan gave me a bit of help by coming up my inside as he pushed me along a bit -- this fellow is as tough as nails."

John Warren, spokesman for the Queen, said: "The Queen got such pleasure out of Estimate's run. She was so brave and Ryan says it was a career best."

Leading Light, who is out of graded/group winner Dance Parade, by Gone West, has seven wins from nine career starts. Bred in Ireland by Lynch-Bages Ltd., he was a 520,000 guineas ($845,699) purchase by Coolmore bloodstock adviser Demi O'Byrne out of Book 1 at the 2011 Tattersalls October yearling sale. "Flash" Conroy's Glenvale Stud consigned as agent.

Aidan O'Brien previously won the Gold Cup four times with Yeats from 2006-09 and with Fame And Glory in 2011.