RALPH Beckett is hopeful Simple Verse can give red-hot favourite Order Of St George a run for his money in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
The star filly added to her Classic success in last year’s St Leger at Doncaster when landing the Fillies & Mares Stakes on the corresponding card 12 months ago and while connections considered letting her defend her crown, she instead steps up to two miles for the first time.
She returns to Ascot in great heart having bounced back from an otherwise disappointing campaign when landing last month’s Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster under Oisin Murphy and appears the biggest threat to Aidan O’Brien’s Gold Cup hero.
Beckett said: “It was good effort at Doncaster. She got in trouble three (furlongs) down and got herself out and managed to get there in time. She showed all her old fire.
“She has to run against colts and geldings, but that doesn’t really worry me. She gets the weight allowance, obviously. She stays so well that we’re keen to go two miles, rather than drop back. For her, I always felt that this weekend was likely to be her target for the whole year.”
Order Of St George is back in action less than a fortnight after his rounding off a one-two-three for Aidan O’Brien in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly.
An intriguing runner is Joe Tuite’s fragile but talented Litigant who has been off the track for 343 days since winning last year’s Ebor and November Handicap at Doncaster.
Coneygree appears increasingly likely to sidestep the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and instead have a racecourse gallop with a view to making his comeback in next month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Mark Bradstock’s nine-year-old brought the house down after becoming the first novice in 41 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015, but has not been seen in competitive action since winning his one and only start of last season at Sandown last November.
The trainer’s wife and assistant, Sara Bradstock, is thrilled with how her pride and joy has recovered from injury as he closes in on a return and is keen to give him the best possible chance of winning the Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown – with a £1m bonus on offer for any horse who can land the Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase and the Gold Cup.
Bradstock said: “He’s very good and we’re just waiting for the rain. He’ll probably have to go straight to the Betfair Chase as the Charlie Hall is probably too close. The only thing that would send us there (Wetherby) would be if it was good to soft ground.”
Jim Crowley, who once plied his trade over jumps at Sue and Harvey Smith’s High Eldwick yard, will be crowned champion Flat jockey today.
Crowley rode a record 46 winners last month to snatch the title from outgoing champion Silvestre de Sousa.
“Coming from jumping it’s not really something I set out to when I started riding on the Flat. It seemed a million miles away,” he said.