The views from connections ahead of Royal Ascot's Thursday action

Racing
Big Orange
Big Orange

Find out the views from connections ahead of the big races at Royal Ascot on Thursday. What are the trainers saying?

Having answered questions about his stamina when an impressive winner last year, Aidan O'Brien's Order Of St George looks a solid favourite in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

The five-year-old went on to finish third behind stablemates Found and Highland Reel in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, but less than a fortnight later he was surprisingly beaten at Ascot on Champions Day.

He also suffered a reverse on his seasonal debut in the Vintage Crop Stakes before winning the Saval Beg, with O'Brien reluctant to make comparisons with four-time Gold Cup winner Yeats.

"We take one race at a time with every horse and don't get too far ahead of ourselves," said O'Brien.

"It's been a case of so far so good with Order Of St George this season. We were happy with his first run and his second run, and we've been happy with him since. I'd say he's in a similar place to last year.

"We were delighted with him in the Gold Cup last year. We could not be sure he would stay the distance, but he saw it out well.

"He could go for the Goodwood Cup afterwards, but we've got to get to Ascot first and we will see after that."

Michael Bell's Big Orange will be ridden by James Doyle in the absence of Frankie Dettori, but his trainer admits the trip is a bit of an unknown for the dual Goodwood Cup winner.

"He won well over two miles at Sandown the other day and the last furlong was probably his best furlong and that's two miles with an uphill finish," Bell told At The Races.

"There's no doubt he'll get two and a quarter miles, but two and a half is uncharted waters.

"But looking at him as a physical specimen, you've got to think if any horse is going to get two and a half, he would.

"I don't think Order Of St George is a Yeats. He's not stamped his authority on the race yet. Obviously he's a high-class horse, but Big Orange is at at his peak at this time of year.

"I can see him setting a relentless gallop and hopefully lasting home. If the ground is fast, he'll run a huge race. You've got to hope and be positive and we couldn't be happier with the horse."

Sheikhzayedroad won the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day last year and trainer David Simcock expects him to run his usual solid race in what is another leg of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

"He'll run his race. He doesn't let us down very often. It looks a very good race but our horse is going well," said Simcock.

"He's definitely the yard favourite and is in great shape, but he doesn't show us much at home so you just go on well-being and what the lad who is riding him is saying."

Simple Verse won the 2015 St Leger for Ralph Beckett and made a pleasing return to action in the Yorkshire Cup.

David Redvers, racing manager for owner Qatar Racing, said: "She is great and moving well. I saw her the other day and she has put on weight since her run at York, which is exactly where Ralph wants her.

"She is very bright in herself. We don't know whether the extra half-mile is going to suit her, but we would be very optimistic. She is as tough as nails and thought she won the Yorkshire Cup so is going there on high - she is really blooming."

Quest For More disappointed in Dubai on soft ground and again on quicker going in the Henry II Stakes, but trainer Roger Charlton feels he had valid excuses for both runs.

"He was disappointing at Sandown but after the race he had a bit of a mucus in his lungs, which is unusual for him, so I'm hoping that's a reasonable excuse," said Charlton.

"He doesn't owe anybody anything, but it's nice to have a runner in a race like that."

Torcedor has made giant strides for Jessica Harrington since joining the team on David Wachman's retirement, beating Order Of St George in the Vintage Crop Stakes.

His jockey Colm O'Donoghue said: "He won really well at Leopardstown and then we took him to Navan. We went a good pace, Jessie wanted to find out a bit more about him and he was very good on the day.

"He showed plenty of pace, he settled and he travelled, so it's all systems go. His work has been good and Jessie is very happy."

Former winner Trip To Paris, St Leger hero Harbour Law and Hughie Morrison's Sweet Selection are others to note.

Sir Michael Stoute's Mori gets the chance to live up to her breeding in the Ribblesdale Stakes elsewhere on the card.

By Frankel and out of the brilliant mare Midday, who six Group Ones, including three Nassau Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, connections will be hoping this is the stepping stone to a career at the highest level.

The Irish Oaks entry was unraced at two and only fifth on her debut at Newbury, but she opened her account at Ascot in May and won a Listed race over 10 furlongs at Goodwood last time out.

Mori was bred by owner Khalid Abdullah, whose racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: "She would certainly be pretty high on our priorities for the week.

"She's progressed very well and she's a stakes winner already, so we have to be pretty pleased about that.

"Everyone has been very happy with her since Goodwood and we're looking forward to running her."

Pat Smullen was booked to ride some time ago and is understandably pleased to be on board.

"She's a lovely filly with a great profile," he told At The Races.

"She's progressing along nicely and I think she's there with a live chance. I'm really looking forward to riding her."

John Gosden poses the biggest threat to Mori, numerically at least, with four runners.

Coronet finished fifth in the Oaks while Gracious Diana and Astronomy's Choice ran respectably in Oaks trials, but Hertford Dancer performed way above expectations when winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial.

She is owned by a syndicate, 5 Hertford Street Racing Club, which is managed by Harry Herbert, who said: "Hertford Dancer is a remarkable filly.

"John Gosden, John and Jake Warren and myself had thought about running her in an Oaks Trial and the Lingfield race seemed to break up a bit. We hoped we could get some black type and give everyone a fun day out as lots of the people involved in the syndicate are new to racing.

"It was absolutely astonishing that she won so well. She won well and won on merit. She improved her rating by 23lb. If she can improve by just half as much again, everyone is going to have a lot of fun."

Aidan O'Brien runs Alluringly, arguably the form pick given she was second to Enable at Chester and third, albeit beaten over 11 lengths, in the Oaks.

John Oxx's Naughty Or Nice is the only unbeaten filly in the field and wears blinkers for the first time while Roger Varian runs Serenada, third to Shutter Speed in the Musidora.

Hugo Palmer's Apphia finished second behind Serenda in a Sandown maiden in April and has since struck gold at Goodwood.

"She's a very good looking and beautifully bred daughter of High Chaparral," Palmer told Betfair.

"She's run twice, she was beaten a nose by a filly who went on to be third in the Musidora at York and then she dead-heated to win a good maiden at Goodwood last time.

"We expect her to improve a lot for stepping up in trip."

Trainer Karl Burke will try to fend off the might of Wesley Ward when Havana Grey runs in the Norfolk Stakes.

A Listed winner at Sandown on his third start, he has already shown he possesses plenty of speed - and also has experience in the bag.

However, Havana Grey could be expected to be a much shorter price were in not for the presence of the Ward-trained McErin.

"I think a lot of him. I was impressed by his last gallop and he must have a chance in what looks a very interesting race," said Burke.

"You have to respect whatever Wesley Ward runs but his horse has a dirt pedigree so we'll have to see how he goes."

We bring just about the best British form from his Sandown race but I've got a healthy respect for Richard Fahey's (It Dont Come Easy).

"Tom Dascombe is convinced Frozen Angel will turn the form around with us but we'll see about that!"

McErin was surprisingly beaten on his second outing, but the vibes have been strong since his arrival in Newmarket.

"He's a beautiful colt. When you look at him you'd say he's just the perfect type for a sprinter," said the American trainer.

"He's well and while he can be a bit buzzy on the gallops, when he gets to the racetrack he's the perfect gentleman.

"We've brought his handlers over from the States to get the saddle on to make sure he doesn't run his race in the paddock."

Declan Carroll's Santry won a division of the Brocklesby on the first day of the season and then defied a penalty at York when beating Consequences, who has since won and renews rivalry for the David O'Meara team.

The big betting race of the day is the Britannia Stakes, over the straight mile for three-year-olds, with the market headed by Richard Hannon's Son Of The Stars, who will be ridden by Oisin Murphy.

Murphy told his British Champions Series blog: "Son Of The Stars ran a super race at Newmarket.

"He was perhaps a little short of experience that day - he should've learnt plenty from that. He's worked to a high level at home and has an outstanding chance.

"He's straightforward like most of Richard Hannon's so I'm exciting about getting aboard."

Hugo Palmer runs Via Serendipity and Colibri. Palmer said: "Via Serendipity ran well for a long way when he finished fifth in the Greenham and at the time he was still in the Guineas.

"He's been gelded since then and this is his first race since. I think the stiff mile at Ascot should suit him and off 90 he should have every chance.

"We've also got Colibri. He's just run once this year when very unlucky in the Esher Cup at Sandown, he got knocked out of the way when it looked like he was coming to win.

"He was a wide-margin maiden winner last year and I think he's still relatively unexposed."

Palmer also has a runner in the King George V Stakes in Majoris.

"Majoris had the ignominy of being the first of Frankel's first crop to be beaten but he's a winner of two and we're trying something a bit new stepping him up in trip," the Newmarket handler told Betfair.

"We think there's a chance on pedigree that he'll stay. He certainly works like he will, and he'll also wear blinkers for the first time."

Mirage Dancer is likely to be a warm order for the Group Three Hampton Court Stakes over a mile and a quarter.

The son of Frankel, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, won on his debut at Doncaster last autumn and made some eyecatching late headway to take fourth place in the Dee Stakes at Chester in May.

Charlie Appleby won the race last year with Hawkbill and saddles Bay Of Poets, with fellow Godolphin trainer responsible for Benbatl and Tamleek. 

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