Leading Light cemented his position at the head of the ante-post market on the Gold Cup with a perfect start to his four-year-old campaign in the Coolmore Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan. The Ladbrokes St Leger hero was running for the first time since finishing down the field in the Arc at Longchamp in October and took closer order behind the front-running Royal Diamond with a half a mile to travel.
With the latter sticking to the far rail, Joseph O’Brien’s mount came down the middle in company with Pale Mimosa, and the even-money favourite loomed large two furlongs out. When asked Leading Light responded sweetly and went nicely clear in the final 200 yards to win with three lengths in hand from Royal Diamond, who kept on well to take second.
Winning trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “You’d have to be very happy with him, you couldn’t be happier really. “I was very happy with him at home, he’s a lot stronger and was doing all the right things. “He had the penalty there for his first run and it was a proper run race.
“We haven’t seen the bottom of him yet, at the end of two miles at Ascot last year (Queen’s Vase) he didn’t seem to be stopping so we will look forward to that (Gold Cup) and he could run in the Saval Beg before that.”
Coral and Ladbrokes cut Leading Light to 2-1 favourite for the Ascot showpiece, with RaceBets going 9-4. O'Brien doubled up when Leading Light's full-brother John Constable (5-4 favourite) stayed on strongly in the Excelebration Maiden.
The three-year-old was getting off the mark at the sixth time of asking, beating Karezak by three-quarters of a length. Like his brother last year, he could be aimed at the Queen’s Vase at the Royal meeting. O’Brien said: “We might have run him a bit short the first couple of times. He only ran over seven furlongs twice as a two-year-old.
“When we stepped him up to a mile and two it appeared to help. “The Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot could be an option now.” Sailors Swan made a successful seasonal debut when landing the Come Racing On June 14th Maiden in some style.
Dermot Weld's colt was fourth to Ebanoran at the Curragh on his sole juvenile outing, form well advertised when the John Oxx-trained winner passed the post first in the Derrinstown Derby Trial recently before being demoted. The son of Henrythenavigator only needed to be pushed out by Pat Smullen to beat Body Beautiful by a ready three and a half lengths.
Weld said of the 11-8 favourite: "He'll go for a handicap now and that trip is about right for him, we ran him over seven furlongs as a two-year-old and we thought we'd come back in trip with him." Christina Simpson enjoyed a moment to remember as she rode her fist ever winner on Above The Law (16-1) in the Navan Family Day Handicap.
The 20-year-old, who claims 10lb and is from Tynan in County Armagh, was in front from an early stage on the Andrew Oliver-trained gelding and did really well to keep all at bay as the challengers loomed from two out. Chillie Billie got closest but was still a length and a half down at the line.
Oliver said: "It's all about Christina, I'm delighted for her. She's been with me three or four years, she's great girl and a great worker." The in-form Weld suffered a rare reverse as Dandyleekie got up right on the line to foil Araner in the Requinto European Breeders Fund Maiden. Smullen's mount bowled along with the help of the rail and looked like he might have done enough but he was was strongly pressed by Ger Lyons' newcomer through the final furlong. The pair flashed past the post almost as one, but 16-1 chance Dandyleekie was quickly called the winner by a head in the hands of Gary Carroll. Lyons said: "We hoped it would be a nice experience bringing him to
Navan and we can build for the season from this.
“We always thought he had ability and he will be on the team for Royal Ascot now. “Gary says he’s still very weak, but it’s a nice option to have. There should be masses of improvement to come and it bodes well for what we have at home.”
Eddie Lynam was on the scoresheet as 4-1 favourite More Questions provided the answers to the navanracecourse.ie Handicap in the hands of Leigh Roche for his third course success. Lynam said: "He is a good horse here. He probably won a bit far and the handicapper will have his say now. "I think there is a race for him here next month, and I think we will keep him for here as he is not as good anywhere else." Lynam doubled up as Odisseia (7-2) and Fergal Lynch took the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Fillies Handicap.