Kyprios facing 11 potential rivals as he bids to regain Gold Cup crown at Royal Ascot

Kyprios will face a maximum of 11 rivals when he bids to regain his crown in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

Aidan O’Brien’s charge was the star performer in the staying division a couple of years ago, with his Gold Cup triumph followed by further big-race victories in the Goodwood Cup and the Irish St Leger before a sensational 20-length success in the Prix du Cadran.

A career-threatening injury restricted the six-year-old to just two starts last term and he was beaten on both occasions – but having bounced back to winning ways in the Vintage Crop at Navan in April, and followed up in Leopardstown’s Levmoss Stakes the following month, Kyprios is odds-on to provide his trainer, who has also left in Point Lonsdale and Tower Of London, with a ninth Gold Cup win.

With their reigning champion Courage Mon Ami ruled out after suffering a setback, prominent owners Wathnan Racing will instead rely upon his stablemate Gregory, winner of the Queen’s Vase at this meeting 12 months ago and last seen finishing third in the Yorkshire Cup.

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Gregory’s trainers John and Thady Gosden have also confirmed last season’s Long Distance Cup winner Trawlerman and last month’s Henry II Stakes victor Sweet William.

In the year he was crowned British champion jumps trainer for the first time, Willie Mullins will bid to add a major Flat prize to his burgeoning CV with Vauban, who was a brilliant winner of last year’s Copper Horse Handicap and split Giavellotto and Gregory when second at York five weeks ago.

Caius Chorister (David Menuisier), last year’s runner-up Coltrane (Andrew Balding), Enemy (Ian Williams), Prydwen (George Scott) and Trueshan (Alan King) are the other hopefuls.

Day three of the Royal meeting gets under way with the Group Two Norfolk Stakes, for which O’Brien’s dominant Curragh winner Whistlejacket is a hot favourite.

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The son of No Nay Never is one of 33 juveniles in the mix, with the Karl Burke-trained Shareholder chief among his potential rivals.

Nineteen fillies have stood their ground for the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes, with Ralph Beckett’s Oaks fourth You Got To Me among the market principals, while the Group Three Hampton Court Stakes also promises to be an intriguing affair, with Harry Charlton’s King’s Gambit one of the more interesting contenders among 24 entries in total following his London Gold Cup romp at Newbury last month.

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