Aidan O’Brien has won the Gold Cup seven times and his last year’s winner Order of St George (Galileo) will be looking to hold his crown and with the withdrawal of Vazirabad looks another short-priced favourite for the Ballydoyle master.
Winner of his prep race, the Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes (L) in good style, Order of St George will be spot on for his Gold Cup defence. The David Simcock-trained Sheikhzayedroad (Dubawi) has proved to be a very smart stayer in recent seasons which saw him win the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Gr 2) last October over two miles at Ascot, although this will be the first time he will try the extended trip.
Qatar Racing’s 2015 St Leger (Gr 1) winner Simple Verse (Duke Of Marmalade) has proved to be a consistent stayer which saw her win the DFS Park Hill Stakes (Gr 1) last September, however the Gold Cup could prove to be too far for her. The Michael Bell-trained Big Orange (Duke Of Marmalade) is one of the most reliable stayers in training. Having won the two-mile Goodwood Cup (Gr 2) last season and with a good win of the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes (Gr 3) last time out, Big Orange will be sure to run a big race.
Jessica Harrington brings Torcedor (Fastnet Rock) who has been unbeaten in his two starts this year which included beating Order Of St George in the Coolmore Vintage Crop Stakes (Gr 3) over 14f; however he is yet to be tried over two miles.
The Ribblesdale Stakes (Gr 2), Royal Ascot’s Oaks, is run over 12 furlongs for three-year-old fillies, could well see Aidan O’Brien line up with the favourite. Having finished both second and third behind Enable (Nathaniel) in the Cheshire Oaks (L) and Epsom Oaks (Gr 1) respectively, Alluringly (Fastnet Rock) will be looking to gain a first stakes win and on the form book she looks the filly to beat. However, Enable’s owner Prince Khalid Abdullah could have the key to the middle-distance three-year-old fillies as his Mori put up a smart performance to win the Markel Height Of Fashion Stakes (L). The daughter of Frankel out of the seven-time Group 1 winner Midday certainly has the pedigree to win a Ribblesdale Stakes.
Another filly to have run a fine race in the Oaks was the eventual fifth Coronet (Dubawi). The John Gosden-trained filly won the Godolphin Flying Start Zetland Stakes (L) last October, before being a good third in the Prix Saint-Alary (Gr 1) in May.
The Norfolk Stakes (Gr 2), run over a minimum trip of five furlongs, for two-year-old colts’ sees Wesley Ward travel over the Atlantic with another potential speedster. McErin (Trappe Shot) won his maiden at Keeneland by seven and a half lengths before finishing a close-up third next time out.
Declan Carroll, who trains just 25 horses in Malton, looks to have a smart juvenile in the way of Sentry (Harbour Watch). Winner of both his starts including an impressive two and a half lengths win at York’s Dante meeting, Santry deserves to be leading contender. Another Yorkshire-based trainer will a leading runner is the Karl Burke-trained Havana Grey. The son of the first crop sire Havana Gold, also sire of leading Queen Mary Stakes (Gr 2) contender Chica La Habana, Havana Grey has won his last two starts including the National Stakes (L).
The Norfolk Stakes would not be the same if neither Aidan O’Brien or Richard Hannon had runners. The former has Murillo, who followed up a disappointing last on debut to win his maiden in easy style at Tipperary at the end of last month. By Scat Daddy, Murillo is by the same sire as No Nay Never, winner of the Norfolk Stakes in 2013. The latter has Buridan (Choisir), who only won his maiden at Windsor on his debut on June 12th. Having cost Al Shaqab Racing €360,000 earlier this year and he will be expected to improve.
Another colt that will run a good race is the unbeaten Nine Below Zero (Showcasing). A close relative to last year’s meeting winner Quiet Reflection (Showcasing), Nine Below Zero won his last start by over three lengths.
Clive Webb-Carter Bloodstock Services