There’s a strong connection between Cheltenham and Ascot racecourses. Cheltenham stages the pinnacle of Jump Racing and Ascot stages the summer highlight of the Flat with Royal Ascot and since last year, the end of season Flat finale with Champions Day. Trainers who would be better known in the jumping sphere rather than on the level have had an impact. For example, in the last ten years the Ascot Stakes ( Handicap – 2m 1/2f) has been won by trainers who fans of the jumping game would be very familiar with; O’Neill, Pipe, Henderson, Martin and Webber. Jonjo O’Neill’s Well Sharp in the well known colours of JP McManus, took the race last year to complete a sequence of 4 in a row for trainers who regularly run horses at Cheltenham as well as Ascot. The entries for this year’s renewal are likely to contain many dual purpose horses so there’s every chance the sequence can continue. Junior who was triumphant in 2010 went on to complete a rare Royal Ascot – Cheltenham Festival double when he ran away with the 2011 Kim Muir. If you travel a bit further back in time, Brown Jack did the same, only the other way around. Having won the Champion Hurdle in 1928, three months on he was victorious in the Ascot Stakes. He also has the distinction of winning the Queen Alexandra (Group 3 – 2m5f) for six years running from 1929–1934. That race has been taken in recent years by dual purpose performers such as Baddam and Caracciola. The 2012 winner Simenon falls in that bracket too and he is set to line up in this year’s Ascot Gold Cup, having finished a neck second to the Queen’s Estimate last year. Given his liking for Ascot in June and what we saw at Chester, his Royal Ascot Odds of 16/1 for the Gold Cup look generous. Simenon joined the Willie Mullins yard from Andrew Balding in 2011 when I would imagine hurdling was the sole intent and he has displayed plenty of ability in that sphere. Simenon loves a level, fast galloping track and it comes as no surprise that he has shown his very best around courses such as: Ascot, Ayr and Cork. He certainly didn’t appreciate the Cheltenham undulations when finishing last in the 2012 Supreme Novice Hurdle. Another contender at a double figure price is Pale Mimosa, trained by Irish dual purpose trainer Dermot Weld and owned by Ronan Lambe. When their Rite Of Passage went off favourite for the 2009 Champion Bumper, who would have thought we were watching next year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner? Not many horses contest the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle directly before the Ascot Gold Cup but that’s what Rite Of Passage did in 2010. So, the chestnut with the big fluffy noseband went from Cheltenham to Ascot via Rosewell House to contest the Gold Cup. Sent off at an unconsidered 20/1 in the betting, he beat Age Of Aquarius by a neck and set a new track record in the process. Pale Mimosa came 3rd to the Ascot Gold Cup favourite Leading Light in the Vintage Crop Stakes in his seasonal reappearance and is likely to renew rivalry without another run. Should he take the honours on Thursday 19 June it would be an amazing Gold Cup double for his owner who won this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup with Lord Windermere. Well known jumps trainer Alan King is likely to saddle Tiger Cliff in the Gold Cup, but he was a disappointing 5th to Brown Panther in the Henry II stakes at Sandown. So if you’re having a bet in the Ascot Stakes on Royal Ascot Tuesday or in the Gold Cup on Ladies Day, make a note of those Cheltenham connections.
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