Thursday 15 November 2018

Royal Ascot is Flat racing's Cheltenham and this year should deliver some thrilling battles

Trainer Aidan O'Brien at Ascot. Photo: Julian Herbert/Getty Images
Trainer Aidan O'Brien at Ascot. Photo: Julian Herbert/Getty Images

Eamonn Sweeney

All the tradition, fashion, ceremony and memories of Audrey Hepburn in a bonnet sometimes make it easy to forget what an outstanding event Royal Ascot is from a purely sporting perspective. The eight Group One races in the festival makes it the closest thing Flat racing has to a Cheltenham.

Last year was particularly exciting with the highlight an epic struggle in the Ascot Gold Cup where Aidan O'Brien's two-in-a-row-seeking Order Of St George lost by a short head to double Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange. Big Orange's bid for three Goodwood Cups on the trot was later denied by John Gosden's Stradivarius which will pose the main challenge to Order Of St George this Thursday.

O'Brien's star bounced back from last year's narrow reverse to win the Irish St Leger and the Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot where Stradivarius, which has won the Group Two Yorkshire Cup already this year, was a length back in third place. To make things even livelier, the Aga Khan-owned Vazirabad, which has won three Dubai Gold Cups in a row against some excellent opposition, will also be there.

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