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Order Of St George set for Gold Cup defence

21 Jun 2017

Aidan O'Brien says it has been "so far, so good" with his star five-year-old

Order of St George

Order Of St George seeks back-to-back Gold Cup victories. Picture: Racingfotos.com

Order Of St George will face 13 rivals in his attempt to win back-to-back renewals of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday and, in the process, provide Aidan O’Brien with an eighth success in the £400,000 staying showpiece.

Four of O’Brien’s record sequence of victories were achieved with the successive triumphs of Yeats (2006-2009) and that mighty horse’s exploits in the 2m4f contest, which forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, are commemorated by a statue in Ascot’s parade ring.

Yeats did not enjoy his first Gold Cup triumph until he was five, whereas Order Of St George was four when gaining his emphatic win 12 months ago. However, O’Brien is reluctant to suggest Order Of St George might one day emulate him.

“We take one race at a time with every horse and don’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” the champion trainer said. “It’s been a case of so far so good with Order Of St George this season. We were happy with his first run and his second run, and we’ve been happy with him since. I’d say he’s in a similar place to last year.

“We were delighted with him in the Gold Cup last year. We could not be sure he would stay the distance but he saw it out well.” Asked about future plans for Order Of St George, O’Brien said: “He could go for the Goodwood Cup afterwards but we’ve got to get to Ascot first and we will see after that.”

Order Of St George is unlikely to have things all his own way with plenty of depth among the opposition. Sheikhzayedroad finished third in the Gold Cup last year and went on to win the Doncaster Cup and Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup – each time at the main expense of Quest For More, who in between won the Group 1 Prix Du Cadran at Chantilly.

Dual Qatar Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange landed the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes in emphatic style at Sandown last time and seems likely to get the fast ground he relishes, while the past two winners of the Ladbrokes St Leger, Simple Verse and Harbour Law, are fascinating contenders. Simple Verse finished a neck runner-up to Dartmouth in the Betway Yorkshire Cup on her seasonal reappearance when the winner raced on the opposite side of the track to her.

Jessica Harrington, better known for her exploits in the National Hunt arena, has already enjoyed a fabulous time this year but has yet to saddle a winner at Royal Ascot. She has a live contender in Torcedor, who had Order Of St George behind when winning the Group 3 Coolmore Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in April.

Trip To Paris, winner of the Gold Cup in 2015, attempts to regain his crown, while the first three home in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot last month – Sweet Selection, Prince Of Arran and Nearly Caught – renew rivalry.

The field is completed by Endless Time, Harrison and She Is No Lady.