Ascot Gold Cup
Thursday 22nd June, 16:20
Big Orange (Michael Bell/James Doyle)
Landed Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket and Goodwood Cup last July, winning both races for the second year in succession. Went globetrotting thereafter, his effort when well beaten in the Hong Kong Vase not matching respectable efforts when 10th in the Melbourne Cup and fourth in the Dubai Gold Cup. Didn't need to improve, making the most of a good opportunity, when winning the Henry II Sakes at Sandown last month.
Nearly Caught (Hughie Morrison/Adam Kirby)
Strong front-runner who won listed race and Prix Kergorlay in 2016, both at Deauville. Respectable efforts when placed this year, in Sagaro Stakes at Ascot (two and a quarter lengths third to Sweet Selection) and Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten. Reliable, but might lack the class of some rivals.
Order of St George (Aidan O'Brien/Ryan Moore)
Won this race impresssively (by three lengths from Mizzou, Sheikhzayedroad third) 12 months ago, but turned over at 7/1-on in most recent renewal of Irish St Leger, and unable to repeat form of Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe third when only fourth in Long Distance Cup (6/4-on favourite) here in October. Again beaten at odds-on at Navan on reappearance, and didn't need to be at best to win listed race at Leopardstown last time. The one to beat on both ratings and the memory of his performance in this race last year.
Quest For More (Roger Charlton/Jamie Spencer)
Tactically versatile performer who won Lonsdale Cup at York and Prix du Cadran at Chantilly (by short neck from Vazirabad) in 2016. Ran well when second to Sheikhzayedroad in Doncaster Cup and Long Distance Cup here (beaten half length) either side of his wins. Not himself when last of seven to Big Orange in Henry II Stakes at Sandown last time and not one to write off just yet.
Sheikhzayedroad (David Simcock/Martin Harley)
Belied 40/1 odds when third to Order of St George in this race 12 months ago and confirmed his wellbeing with back-to-back wins in the Doncaster Cup in September and Long Distance Cup here (by half a length from Quest For More) in October. Better than ever when beaten one and a half lengths in the Dubai Gold Cup when last seen in March and capable of a bold show here.
Torcedor (Jessica Harrington/Colm O'Donoghue)
Won minor event at Leopardstown (by five and a half lengths from Twilight Payment) in April and improved again when following up in Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan last time by one and a half lengths from Order of St George, making all gamely. Has clearly improved since stepping up in trip for new yard and not one to discount lightly.
Trip To Paris (Ed Dunlop/Andrea Atzeni)
Won this race (by one and a quarter lengths from Kingfisher) in 2015, but failed to add to his tally since. Career interrupted by injury since, and continued to look a shadow of his former self when four lengths fourth to Elidor in listed race at Nottingham in April.
Harbour Law (Laura Mongan/Jim Crowley)
Made rapid progress last term, winning 0-85, handicap at Sandown in May and Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster (by three quarters of a length from Ventura Storm) in September. Strong pace saw him to good advantage on latter occasion, and easy to dismiss disappointing reappearance run in slowly-run Sagaro Stakes last time. Something to prove now, though.
Harrison (Mick Channon/Graham Lee)
Won minor event at Chelmsford in May, but five lengths fourth to Dal Harraild in listed race at York last time suggests he has a mountain to climb here.
Prince of Arran (Charlie Fellowes/Tom Queally)
Smart handicapper who won at Kempton (twice) in 2016, but took another step forward when one and a half lengths second to Sweet Selection in Sagaro Stakes here last time, though was better placed than most. That form leaves him with something to find.
Endless Time (Charlie Appleby/William Buick)
Won Lancashire Oaks at Haydock last July and bettered that form when half-length second to Left Hand in Prix Vermaille at Chantilly in September. Shaped as if needing the run when half-length fourth to Dartmouth in Yorkshire Cup at York last time and should come on for that outing.
She Is No Lady (Ralph Beckett/Fran Berry)
Won handicap at Chelmsford and listed race at Saint-Cloud in 2016, and ran at least as well after eight months off when seven lengths third to Big Orange in Henry II Stakes at Sandown last time. Needs to better that form by some distance.
Simple Verse (Ralph Beckett/Oisin Murphy)
Lengthy mare who won St Leger (first past the post, losing it in the Stewards' room on the day, before a successful appeal) and Fillies & Mares Stakes here in 2015. Third to Sheikhzayedroad in Long Distance Cup here in October and shaped as if better for the run when neck second to Dartmouth in Yorkshire Cup at York last time. Gives the impression this trip will be within range.
Sweet Selection (Hughie Morrison/Silvestre de Sousa)
Most progressive in 2016, culminating in victory in 33-runner Cesarewitch at Newmarket. Better than ever after seven months off when following up in 2m Sagaro Stakes here last time by one and a half lengths from Prince of Arran, for all that she was ideally positioned as race unfolded. Stays well and in rude health so not one to take lightly.
Timeform Ascot Gold Cup 1-2-3
1. Order of St George
3. Big Orange
Timeform Analyst's Verdict:
ORDER OF ST GEORGE was most impressive in this 12 months ago and will surely take a lot of stopping as he bids to become the first back-to-back winner since the same connections' Yeats. For those who prefer to play at bigger odds last year's third Sheikhzayedroad, who also won a Group 2 here last autumn, should go well again. The admirable Big Orange and Sweet Selection complete the shortlist.