order Of St George and Stradivarius feature in a nine-strong field for tomorrow’s Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
Order Of St George provided trainer Aidan O’Brien with a record seventh victory in the two-and-half-mile showpiece in 2016 and was beaten a short head by Big Orange when defending his crown 12 months ago.
Just as he did last season, the six-year-old has warmed up for Ascot by running in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan and the Saval Beg at Leopardstown and is the narrow favourite for the Gold Cup with some bookmakers.
His main market rival is the John Gosden-trained Stradivarius, who won the Queen’s Vase at last year’s Royal meeting.
The four-year-old was beaten a length into third place by Order Of St George in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot last October, but a winning return in last month’s Yorkshire Cup suggested he could be an improved performer this season.
Jessica Harrington’s Torcedor and the Willie Mullins-trained Max Dynamite join Order Of St George to form a three-pronged Irish challenge, while France’s star stayer Vazirabad is set to make his first appearance in Britain.
Desert Skyline (David Elsworth), Sheikhzayedroad (David Simcock), Scotland (Andrew Balding) and Mount Moriah (Ralph Beckett) complete the line-up.
l Ruby Walsh is targeting the Galway Festival as he continues to recover from the broken leg he sustained at Cheltenham in March.
Walsh was injured when Al Boum Photo fell on the second day of the Festival, with the setback coming just days after he returned from another broken leg he suffered last November.
Walsh is now on track for the big meeting at Ballybrit which runs from July 30 to August 5.
He said: “Galway is five weeks away and I’ll have no problem in making that.”
ROYAL ASCOT: 2.30 Vintage Brut, 3.05 Wadilsafa, 3.40 Sun Maiden (next best), 4.20 ORDER OF ST GEORGE (NAP), 5.00 Corrosive, 5.35 First Eleven.
RIPON: 2.10 Dreamseller, 2.40 Pearl Noir, 3.20 Braemar (treble), 3.55 Lamloom, 4.35 Graceful Art, 5.10 Racemaker, 5.40 Olympic Odyssey.
CHELMSFORD: 1.45 Royal Guild, 2.20 Sanam, 2.55 Victory Wave, 3.30 Nathan, 4.05 Shailene, 4.45 Rustang, 5.20 Lalania.
FFOS LAS: 6.10 Nikki Steel, 6.40 Jeu De Mots, 7.15 As You Like, 7.45 King Vince, 8.15 Bodega, 8.45 Havisham, 9.15 Borak.
LINGFIELD: 5.50 Secret Agent, 6.20 Just Us Two, 6.50 Roxy Art, 7.25 Peggie Sue, 7.55 Stosur, 8.25 Irish Times, 8.55 Midnight Blue.