There was a time when the Gold Cup at Ascot was one of the most prestigious races of the year and a natural target for the previous year's classic stars. It was the first race at the Royal meeting to get Group 1 status when the pattern system was introduced, but the attribute required to win it – stamina – has since become something of a dirty word.
That is a pity because not only are the top stayers' races an important and popular part of the racing calendar, but the shifting trend towards early speed and precocity is greatly reducing the number of stallions with the potential to sire Derby and Oaks stars plus, of course, St Leger and Gold Cup horses.
Order Of St George is one of the best stayers of the modern era, a horse who is as effective at 12 furlongs as he is over a mile farther, and so something of a throwback to those days of old when a Derby hero would remain in training to tackle the Ascot feature, a race that, as Timeform pointed out again in their 2016 essay on this Aidan O'Brien-trained champion, does not include the word Ascot in its title (Racehorses of 2016, p.740).
He began his career in July of his two-year-old season, finishing fourth in a mile maiden at Leopardstown and ran away with a similar contest over the same course and distance the following month. He was runner-up to Parish Boy over a furlong less at Naas 10 days before and it was that same colt who beat him in the Listed Eyrefield Stakes over nine furlongs at Leopardstown that October.
Order Of St George missed the early season classics and was short-headed by Bondi Beach on his return to action in the Group 3 Curragh Cup in late June. He then posted wide-margin wins in Her Majesty's Plate at Down Royal and the Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial Stakes at the Curragh, and that seven and a half-length defeat of Sea Moon was followed by an 11-length drubbing of Agent Murphy in the Group 1 Irish St Leger.
Timeform rated him 129 that season, just 5lbs behind Horse of the Year, Derby and Arc hero Golden Horn, and although the Gold Cup was the obvious target, it was hoped by some that this exciting colt might also drop back to 12 furlongs at some point.
He ran six times as a four-year-old, duly landing the Group 1 Gold Cup at Ascot, in which he beat Mizzou by three lengths. A shock half-length defeat by Wicklow Brave in the Group 1 Irish St Leger was, however, followed by what was arguably the best performance of his career to that point.
Order Of St George chased home Found and Highland Reel in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over 12 furlongs at Chantilly, beaten one and three-quarter lengths and one and a half lengths, and securing for his trainer an historic one-two-three in Europe's most prestigious race.
He was a warm favourite for the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, over two miles at Ascot, 13 days later but, on this occasion, he disappointed, finishing only fourth to Sheikhzayedroad.
His five starts in 2017 have yielded three wins and two seconds, and having been short-headed by Big Orange in the Gold Cup and beaten Rekindling easily when taking a third edition of the Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial at the Curragh, he goes into tomorrow afternoon's Group 1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe off the back of a nine-length score in this month's Group 1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger.
Order Of St George is, of course, among 70 Group 1 winners sired by Coolmore Stud's prolific champion sire Galileo (by Sadler's Wells). He is a $550,000 graduate of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and, as that fact might suggest, he comes from a top US family, which is part of why it would be fascinating to see how he might fare if given the chance as a flat sire.
He is the best of four stakes winners out of Another Storm (by Gone West), those siblings include the mile Group/Grade 3 scorers Angel Terrace (by Ghostzapper) and Asperity (by War Chant), and his dam is a daughter of 1996's US juvenile filly champion Storm Song (by Summer Squall).
She won the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes, Grade 1 Frizette Stakes and Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, she is the grandam of the top Singapore mile to 10-furlong runner Better Life (by Smarty Jones), and she is a half-sister to the ill-fated Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes winner Diamond Omi (by Giant's Causeway).
Her siblings also include the unraced Happy Tune (by A.P. Indy), who is the dam of 12-furlong Grade 3 scorer Symphony Kid (by Unbridled) and of Grade 3-winning miler High Cotton (by Dixie Union).
Hum Along (by Fappiano), whose offspring included the $6.8 million yearling purchase Tasmanian Tiger (by Storm Cat), is the third dam of Order Of St George. She was only placed once as a two-year-old but each of her next three dams was a multiple stakes winner.
Minstress (by The Minstrel) was a Grade 3-placed dual listed scorer, Fleet Victress (by King Of The Tudors) won the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap and was a track record setter over eight and a half furlongs at Belmont Park, and Countess Fleet (by Count Fleet) – the sixth dam of the young Ballydoyle star – won the prestigious Milady and Vanity Handicaps, setting a new track record for nine furlongs in the latter.
On pedigree, Order Of St George had the potential to prove best in the mile to 12-furlong range and so, with the right mares, it is entirely possible that he could sire top-class performers over those distances, in addition to the stayers that he will surely get.
He will, of course, attract considerable attention from the National Hunt sector, but at a time when so many new flat recruits are good sprinters or milers, or even precocious sorts who retire early, aiming him solely at the jumps market could be a missed opportunity.