The Gold Cup run over the marathon distance of two and a half miles at Royal Ascot is Thursday’s highlight (4.20pm live on ITV).
The current titleholder Order Of St George is the hot 10/11 favourite with Bet365 in the Ascot Gold Cup betting but, if he performs like Ballydoyle’s well-beaten market leaders on Tuesday, a good look at his rivals seems particularly worthwhile even though he finished second in the Irish St Leger and third in the Arc.
An interesting outsider is Harbour Law (25/1). This star of Laura Mongan’s small Epsom yard overcame the might of Ballydoyle in the St Leger last year. He was rated well below the majority of his rivals and was sent off at 22/1. He benefited from what appeared to be a perfectly timed challenge under George Baker but actually struggled to go with the pace. Stamina has always been his forte and a test beyond two miles could bring out the best in him.
We have only seen this son of Lawman once since his St Leger win. He lined up in the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes here in May and finished last, beaten 14 lengths by Hughie Morrison’s Sweet Selection (14/1), weakening when it mattered. If we forgive that effort which could be put down to needing the run then he is a big price for a Classic winner. This will be his second visit to Royal Ascot as he was beaten less than a length into second by Aidan O’Brien’s Sword Fighter in the Queen’s Vase last year. Harbour Law may well stand a much better chance than his current odds suggest making him very tempting each-way. He will certainly be in the mix when this Ascot Gold Cup preview concludes with its betting tips’ selection.
A more obvious challenger to the favourite is Michael Bell’s appropriately named Big Orange (8/1). This extremely tall, six-year-old son of Duke Of Marmalade with big ears is a real trier. He is incredibly tough and consistent and fortunately relishes quick ground. Bell has said that, like a good wine, he is improving with age.
Big Orange already has four Group 2 victories to his name including the last two renewals of the Goodwood Cup and is rated just 3lb below the favourite. This season Big Orange was only beaten two lengths on unsuitable yielding ground in the Dubai Gold Cup in March under Frankie Dettori. In his one other start it was business as usual in the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown in May. He made all under Dettori on the quick ground and won easily by five lengths beating James Fanshawe’s Higher Power. This will be Big Orange’s first attempt significantly beyond two miles but he finishes his races in the manner of a horse who will get further. As Dettori is injured the capable James Doyle will partner him. Michael Bell’s yard is in outstanding form at the moment, adding to the pair’s obvious claims.
The slightly quirky, hood-wearing Sheikhzayedroad (12/1) was beaten five lengths into third here by Order Of St George last year. He was held up towards the back by Martin Harley and encountered all sorts of trouble in running but stayed on well in the testing conditions. He was allowed to race more prominently in his subsequent starts and was only beaten a length and a half at Goodwood by Big Orange in July and went on to win his next two starts. Sheikhzayedroad took the Group 2 Doncaster Cup in September, beating Quest For More a nose after the two and a quarter mile trip. He followed up here in the Long Distance Cup over two miles in October, beating Quest For More half a length with Simple Verse and Order Of St George taking third and fourth respectively.
Trained by David Simcock, Sheikhzayedroad is apparently ‘as slow as a hearse’ at home but was last seen finishing half a length ahead of Big Orange in the Dubai Gold Cup in third. He filled the same position in his previous run in Meydan in a Group 3 in February. This eight-year-old son of Dubawi has a high head carriage and has attracted some negative comments in the past but he seems to be on very good terms with himself these days. He has won over £1 million and has clocked up countless air miles on his regular trips to Meydan. Sheikhzayedroad has only once finished outside the first three in his past ten starts and looks a likely candidate for a place at least.
Quest For More (best at 16/1 with Bet365) seems another decent prospect given his proximity to Sheikhzayedroad in those two starts but he has disappointed twice since. He was beaten 14 lengths in the Dubai Gold Cup and was most recently seen finishing last, 23 lengths behind Big Orange at Sandown in May. He looked uncomfortable on the quick ground which has not troubled him before and failed to finish off his race.
Trained by Roger Charlton, this seven-year-old has the distinction of a Group 1 win to his name, when he beat the very useful Vazirabad in the Prix Du Cadran at Chantilly in October last year. His two efforts this term suggest that something is amiss and Charlton has admitted in the past that he is fragile. Ridden by Jamie Spencer, it is difficult to follow him with any confidence.
Ralph Beckett’s 2015 St Leger winner Simple Verse (8/1) comes into this in much better form. She ended last season by finishing third to Sheikhzayedroad in the Long Distance Cup, beaten a length. In her only start this term she was beaten a neck by the Queen’s Dartmouth in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup in May.
Another sizeable offspring of Duke Of Marmalade, Simple Verse has never been asked to run further than two miles but Beckett is absolutely convinced that she will stay. She reportedly behaves ‘like an old handicapper’ at home. Simple Verse has only encountered good to firm ground once before, on her fifth run as a three-year-old, she started as a 14/1 shot and won, rated 82 at the time in a handicap at Salisbury. She has a rating of 113 now, 7lb below the favourite but her gender allowance reduces her load by 3lb. If Beckett is right she could be there when it matters if she is still happy on quick ground but the yard’s recent form is a concern.
That sentiment does not apply to Charlie Appleby’s Endless Time (20/1). His one-two with unfancied horses in the Windsor Castle Stakes on Tuesday suggests that his horses are in particularly good order. This four-year-old daughter of Sea The Stars was beaten less than a length into fourth in the Yorkshire Cup, receiving 3lb from Simple Verse who finished second. That was on soft ground and Appleby thinks that she is at her best with give.
Endless Time finished second, less than two lengths behind Vazirabad in the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak at Saint-Cloud in October over two miles on good to soft in October. This will be Endless Time’s first experience of Ascot and the stable’s form makes it difficult to ignore her even on unsuitably fast ground. William Buick can be trusted to give her every chance.
Our Ascot Gold Cup Preview’s Betting Tip Conclusion
If Order Of St George is on form he will be hard to beat. He had a nightmare passage here last year but still won, leaving Ryan Moore gasping for breath but his price seems ungenerous, especially after Ballydoyle’s poor performance on Tuesday. Harbour Law provides exceptionally good value each-way at 25/1 and Sheikhzayedroad (12/1) is also capable of delivering the goods.
- However this Ascot Gold Cup preview’s betting tip has to be BIG ORANGE. He is likely to make the pace so there should be no issues in running. This gelding gives everything every time, will love the ground and the yard is in great form. His jockey James Doyle has already scored at the meeting and is a safe pair of hands, back him each-way best priced at 8/1 with Bet365, a bookmaker with the added bonus of going 1/4 odds the first three while its rivals are currently 1/5 odds a place.