06/16/2016 2:20PM

Order of St George wins Gold Cup, giving O'Brien big day

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Undrafted won the 2015 Diamond Jubilee.

It was, for all intents and purposes, Aidan O’Brien Day on Thursday at Ascot, where O’Brien landed his 50th career winner at the Royal meeting with Even Song in the Group 2 Ribblesdale and captured the featured Gold Cup for the seventh time with the highly impressive Order of St George.

The Gold Cup, a Group 1 worth about $322,000, is contested over 2 1/2 miles, which is three-quarters of a mile farther than Order of St George ever had raced. The field was much larger than usual, 17 runners, yet Order of St George still was odds-on to come out on top – and for good reason.

As the French shipper Mille at Mille strode out to a big lead, Ryan Moore and Order of St George raced in midpack as the field raced round Ascot’s right-handed turns, but with about six furlongs left in the Gold Cup, the back began catching up to Mille at Mille, and things got very tight for many horses. Among them was Order of St George, who was buried in traffic with no hope of a seam about three furlongs from the finish.

But as the field straightened for home and spread wide, Moore wheeled his mount outside, and it took about two seconds to see that he would make the front in plenty of time. Order of St George stormed down the center, overtook the pacesetter, and was far superior to runner-up Mizzou, who was beaten three lengths while more than two clear of third-place Sheikhzayedroad.

“He settled great, and Ryan relaxed him lovely,” O’Brien said. “It was a little bit messy, a little bit rough back there.”

Order of St George, just a 4-year-old, won for the sixth time in 11 starts and won his fifth race in a row. He is the rare horse who can stay all day but might also have the acceleration and speed to contend at a high level in 1 1/2-mile races. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, in fact, was mentioned as a long-range possible goal.

The 3-year-old Mastercraftsman filly Even Song also was a good-looking winner in the Ribblesdale, storming home behind a slow pace under Moore to win by 1 1/2 lengths, her first group stakes victory coming in this 1 1/2-mile fixture.

Godolphin finished first and second in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes with Hawkbill and Prize Money, while the 2-year-old Prince of Lir upset the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes over five furlongs.

Undrafted in Diamond Jubilee

Except for the amazing performance from Lady Aurelia in the Queen Mary Stakes, it’s been a quiet Royal Ascot for trainer Wesley Ward, but on closing day, Saturday, Ward has Undrafted in action trying to win the featured Group 1 Diamond Jubilee for the second year in a row.

The concern, however, is the soft ground that has been present throughout this meet, Undrafted’s win a year ago having come on good-to-firm going. With John Velazquez to ride, Undrafted is one of 10 entered in this straight-course, six-furlong dash. The field looks competitive, too, with Magical Memory the moderate early favorite over Twilight Son and The Tin Man. Post time for the Diamond Jubilee, the card’s fourth race, is 11:20 a.m. Eastern.

The supporting feature, the Group 2 Hardwicke, sports an appealing cast of 10 headed by the apparently improving 4-year-old Exosphere for Juddmonte Farms and trainer Michael Stoute. The field also includes Eagle Top, Highland Reel, Simple Verse, and Dartmouth.