'St George' can foil Mullins's Gold raid
A pair of gallant near misses has left asterisks on Willie Mullins's assaults on two of Flat racing's most prestigious events and the jumps impresario merges those separate strands at Royal Ascot today when he sends Max Dynamite into battle in the Gold Cup.
In 2013, Simenon was gallingly foiled in the gruelling two-and-a-half-miler by Estimate, whose owner the Queen is honoured in the Group One's title in the year of her 90th birthday.
That was a fantastic effort by Johnny Murtagh's mount, but going so close on such an ambitious foray was still hard to swallow. Undeterred, Mullins continues to deploy his ingenuity in an effort to plunder a breakthrough top-level Flat triumph to go with the 183 that he has amassed over jumps.
He duly identified the same lack of zest for hurdling in Max Dynamite that prompted him to reinvent Simenon. Again, though, the results have come frustratingly close to being spectacular.
While the six-year-old was successful in last year's Lonsdale Cup, he had previously been second in the Northumberland Plate, before then falling just short on a daring Melbourne Cup venture under Frankie Dettori.
That was a wonderfully audacious turn that served only to reiterate both Mullins's genius and his versatility, the outcome doing little to betray his sublime execution of an inspired plan.
It would be fitting, then, were Max Dynamite to slay the Group One ghost in this £400,000 contest. However, standing four-square in his way is Aidan O'Brien, a man who has scaled such heady heights of both spheres.
Today, in an intriguing clash, he relies on Order Of St George to secure him an incredible seventh success in a race that he had never won prior to Yeats owning it between 2006 and 2009.
It's not easy to make a case against the favourite. Flexible in terms of ground, he was an emphatic winner of last year's Irish St Leger, before turning in a thoroughly satisfactory display on its Leopardstown return.
There are plenty of other solid stayers such as Flying Officer, Clever Cookie and Pallasator in the 18-strong field, but none appear to possess quite so much quality as Order Of St George.
If Ryan Moore's partner sees out the marathon trip, he should collect.
The same firm will have a big say in the Norfolk with Peace Envoy, which may be a little underestimated as he looked to still be learning when beating Lundy at Naas.
Of the rest, Michael O'Callaghan's Blue De Vega is fancied in the Tercentenary. Due to be ridden by Kieren Fallon for a first time, the Irish 2,000 Guineas third has Classic form and the scope to improve over this 10-furlong trip.