Beckett’s Simple hopes
The view from connections ahead of the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, the opening event on Champions Day.
Simple Verse ridden by Oisin Murphy (left) beats Pretty Perfect at Doncaster.
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 the St Leger 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 and appears the biggest threat to Aidan O'Brien's Gold Cup hero.
Beckett said: "She had a good break after Royal Ascot and came back well at Doncaster.
"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, but his trainer is pleased with his condition.
"He seems to be in very good form. He came out of the Arc very well," O'Brien told At The Races.
The Dermot Weld-trained Forgotten Rules looked poised to dominate the staying division after claiming this Group Two prize in 2014, but it has not been plain sailing since.
While he was far from disgraced when losing his unbeaten record in last year's Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, he failed to fire in his next three starts, including when defending his Long Distance Cup crown a year ago.
There was more promise in his comeback run at the Curragh last month, but connections are praying for rain to give him the best possible chance of being competitive on Saturday.
Fiona Craig, breeding advisor to owners Moyglare Stud, said: "He is a racehorse, this is what he's bred to do and there is an angle that we should run him come what may, but you would worry if the ground was quick.
"Forgotten Rules is fine on good ground, but we know he prefers it softer and taking on horses like Order Of St George and Simple Verse on good ground would be pretty tough.
"He ran his heart out on good to firm in the Gold Cup last year, but he did remember that for a long time. It pretty much ruined the rest of the year for him.
"He's in good form. It would have been nice to see him go and win at the Curragh the other day, but he ran well."
Quest For More returns to the fray two weeks after a narrow triumph in the Prix du Cadran at Chantilly.
Trainer Roger Charlton said: "He's come out of his win in France in very good form and this will be his last race before we look at Dubai in the spring.
"It's going to be a tough race to win with the Arc third, Order Of St George, in there but life is life, you take on the best and this is what championship races should be.
"Quest For More is a game horse and there is a good prize money, so we will give it a go."
David Simcock's stable stalwart Sheikhzayedroad narrowly got the better of Quest For More to lift last month's Doncaster Cup and renews rivalries.
"He's a lovely old horse. He has his quirks, but generally he's very honest and extremely consistent," said the Newmarket handler.
"He's a very straightforward horse to train. He's very clean winded and I've been delighted with him since Doncaster.
"He'll turn up fit and well on the day and run his race.
"The whole race revolves around one horse – Order Of St George. He had a hard race in the Arc, but Aidan and his team are very good at backing their horses up and on what he did in the Gold Cup, he'll take a terrific amount of beating."
Frankie Dettori, on board Order Of St George in Paris but replaced by Ryan Moore this time, partners John Ryan's outsider Sandro Botticelli.
The popular Italian told his Ladbrokes blog: "Sandro Botticelli looks to be up against it and was well held at Goodwood. It would need half a dozen of the big guns to be feeling the effects of a long season for my horse to feature in the finish, but he deserves his place.
"I was absolutely thrilled with the ride Order Of St George gave me in the Arc. If he's come out of Chantilly in decent shape, we're all battling it out for the places: he's the class act here, and I've been proud to play my part in an eventful season for the big-race favourite."
Last year's Ebor and November Handicap hero Litigant belatedly makes his seasonal reappearance for Joe Tuite.
Nearly Caught, Suegioo and Gold Prince complete the 10-strong field.