Of the six races set for Royal Ascot on Thursday, the about 2 ½-mile Gold Cup (GI) is the main attraction and, in the race, which used to be known as the “Ascot Gold Cup” but was renamed to just “Gold Cup” in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday last year, is probably Europe’s most prestigious event for “stayers” or horses who like to run the marathon distances. Unfortunately, American racing doesn’t support distance races like the Gold Cup outside of steeplechasing, so being able to watch Ascot’s Gold Cup has become a treat for American-based fans.
The relentless heat in Berkshire is finally going to let up by post time on Thursday and, while it will still be warm and humid, temperatures are expected to drop about 10 degrees and rain has returned to the forecast. It will be a welcome change to everyone who has endured the uncomfortable conditions through the first two days of the prestigious meeting.
Order of St. George won this race a year ago for Tabor, Smith and Magnier and returns off a win in a listed stakes at The Curragh and trainer Aidan O’Brien is hopeful he’s regained previous form, since the son of Galileo, who was once Europe’s best stayer, has been a bit up and down since last year’s win.
Sheikhzayedroad, who was third will give Order of St. George all his can handle but the David Simcock-trained son of Dubawi also has been a bit unpredictable lately, but seems to like as much distance as he can get. He makes his first start since the Dubai Gold Cup on May 25, but has run well fresh before, so his best performance may be all he’ll need.
Big Orange, coming off a two-mile group 2 score at Sandown, will lead the field to post and may offer some value if the favorites fail, while the 5-year-old mare Simple Verse, who won the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (GI) over this course in 2015, stretches out.
Post time for the Gold Cup will be 11:20 p.m. ET.