Leading Light shines with Vintage Crop win
Report: Navan, Sunday
Coolmore Vintage Crop Stakes (Group 3) 1m6f, 4yo+
LAST year's St Leger winner Leading Light made a fine seasonal reappearance as a four-year-old, striding clear and enhancing his position as Ascot Gold Cup ante-post favourite.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien had said prior to the race the son of Montjeu would come on for the run, but he had more than enough in his tank for his first run of the year to defeat Royal Diamond.
The Saval Beg at Leopardstown could be the next stop for Leading Light on his journey to Royal Ascot, and he is now as short as 7-4 (from 7-2) for the Gold Cup, though 9-4 is generally available.
A pleased O'Brien said: "You'd have to be very happy with that. I couldn't be happier. He had strengthened up over the winter and has been doing all the right things. He has progressed lovely.
"He had a penalty and everything today and it was only his first run of the year, plus they went a real good pace as well, so we were very, very happy.
"It was lovely that they went a proper gallop as he could take his time and didn't have to make his own running which was perfect. He settled well, travelled well and quickened twice. I couldn't ask for more."
On whether Leading Light will stay the 2m4f Gold Cup trip, O'Brien added: "We haven't seen the bottom of him yet. You never know until you try it but you would have to look forward to him trying it. At the end of two miles in Ascot last year [Queen's Vase] he didn't seem to be stopping."
Pale Mimosa was fancied to cause the most problems for Leading Light in the market, and the pair broke together with Royal Diamond quickly sent into the lead.
Joseph O'Brien was happy to wait in third, with Royal Diamond bowling along in front turning into the home straight. Pat Smullen tried to make a move on Pale Mimosa, but O'Brien had kept tabs and quickly got the better of the argument before tackling Royal Diamond.
Johnny Murtagh's runner stuck to his task against the rail, but had no answer, with Leading Light going clear inside the final furlong, returning at evens. Royal Diamond held on for second at 7-1, with Pale Mimosa third at 2-1.