Gold Cup a close call

Connections of Brown Panther were not ruling out a second tilt at the Emirates Melbourne Cup after another heroic performance at Royal Ascot overnight.

Retired England soccer star Michael Owen was still brimming with pride in his home-bred galloper, who showed up for a long way in the Gold Cup (4000m) and was eventually beaten around five lengths into fourth behind Leading Light.

The Group 1 prize, perhaps the most famous and prestigious event of the five-day meeting, again delivered a thrilling finish.

The Queen’s celebrations when Estimate claimed a neck victory over Simenon 12 months earlier were beamed around the world and despite not having the benefit of a lead-up run this time around, she was beaten by exactly the same distance.

Jockey Ryan Moore had been required to switch Estimate further inside for a run at the 400 and his mount rallied but could not quite match the staying power of Leading Light, winner of last year’s St Leger (2800m).

Brown Panther, who suffered an injury when struck into during his eighth-placed finish at Flemington, had been the first to challenge the positively-ridden leader Missunited, but faded under Richard Kingscote in the closing stages.

Last year’s Melbourne Cup fourth Simenon produced his best effort in some time to snatch fifth spot.

“He has been beaten by better horses but has still made us immensely proud,” said joint-owner Owen.

“He always tries his best and has the heart of a lion. This was his big target for the first half of the season.

“The Melbourne Cup is an option, as we had a great experience there last year. It’s something we’ll have to sit down and discuss.

“There are plenty of options, like the Goodwood Cup and the Irish St Leger, and the race back here on Champions Day.”

Trainer Tom Dascombe added: “We’ve just been beaten in a Group 1 so we need to go home and think about it. We are deflated, but he has done his best and that’s all he can do.”

Aidan O’Brien is now the winning-most trainer in Gold Cup history after making it six and Leading Light may now be dropped to 2400 metres for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot in late July.

John Warren, the Queen’s bloodstock advisor, said of Estimate: “It was tremendous, she was so brave and the Queen got such pleasure from it.

“The strange thing was last year no one clapped in the Royal Box. They all just said well done to the Queen. Everyone clapped this year afterwards. That says it all.

“Prince Philip said ‘my goodness that was a good race’. It was great. A real thrill all round.”