06/13/2016 3:26PM

Royal Ascot: Order of St. George heavy favorite in Gold Cup

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If you are from England, an Anglophile, or even a royalist, the Thursday card at Royal Ascot may hold special meaning. For the rest of us, it is a breather of sorts after the bombardment of top-class races Tuesday and Wednesday there.

The Thursday feature is the Gold Cup over 2 1/2 miles, a stayers’ race that carries far less interest for the North American set than the big races between eight and 12 furlongs the rest of the meeting. But in England, the Gold Cup remains among the most prized events of the Royal Ascot meeting, and this year’s edition carries more weight, having been coined The Gold Cup in Honour of the Queen’s 90th Birthday – and yes, there certainly is in this case a “u” in “honour.”

The race itself is, according to the bettors, all but a foregone conclusion, with Order of St. George sitting out there at about even-money among the English bookmakers. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Order of St. George never has raced beyond 1 3/4 miles and now tries 2 1/2, but there’s widespread belief that the distance will prove no impediment. The 4-year-old has done little wrong since being stretched out to long distances last year. He has won four in a row – including an 11-length romp in the Irish St. Leger to end his 3-year-old campaign – and should be fine over a course expected to be good-to-soft at best.

Mizzou could only finish seventh in this race last year, but he’s near the top of the non-Order of St. George market for Thursday’s edition. Big Orange was second by a neck in the Dubai Gold Cup to Vazirabad, who might well be Order of St. George’s equal, but that race came on good-to-firm turf, and Big Orange almost certainly is less effective on softer ground.

The Gold Cup has a scheduled post time of 11:20 a.m. Eastern.

The Thursday card includes two Group 2 races, the Ribblesdale for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/2 miles and the Norfolk for 2-year-olds over five furlongs. The composition of the Norfolk depends on whether Caravaggio or Drafted winds up in this race or runs instead in the Coventry on Tuesday, for which they were both entered.