Order Of St George is all the rage as he sets out to defend his Ascot Gold Cup crown, with some of his rivals conceding they’ll find it hard to beat him.

Aidan O’Brien’s star stayer didn’t have everything go right for him in last year’s event, but he was still dominant, coming away to salute by three lengths.

He’s come through a very similar preparation this time around, winning the Listed Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown first-up, exactly as he did 12 months prior.

It’s why bookmakers have installed Order Of St George, who also came third in last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, as an odds-on favourite and the reason his competitors feel like they’re racing for second.

Sheikhzayedroad finished third in last year’s edition and while trainer David Simcock is happy with his horse, he admits he faces a difficult task.

“There are some who can give Order Of St George a race and we’ve got a great old soldier who we know stays well and goes on any ground,” he said. “But it’ll be difficult to trouble Order Of St George.”

Globetrotter Big Orange, who came 11th in the Hong Kong Vase and fourth in the Dubai Gold Cup, is on the second line of betting after bouncing back to form with a convincing win in the Group Three Henry II Stakes in May.

“He’d had some hard races travelling around the world last year and it got to him eventually,” trainer Michael Bell revealed.

“That was a real confidence booster and teed him up for a good year. We’ve been praying for a nice steamy Ascot as he loves fast ground.”

The Britannia Stakes is one contest local punters should play close attention to with the 1,600m race regularly raided by bloodstock agents looking for a potential Hong Kong Derby horse.

Rule Britannia: Royal Ascot mile may have produced one more handy type with California Whip

Last year, three runners made their way to Sha Tin after competing at Royal Ascot, including the winner Defrocked, now known as Limitless, third-placegetter Chief Whip (renamed California Whip) and the horse who finished sixth, Out And About (now Booming Delight).

All three ran in at least one race of the four-year-old series, while Limitless and Booming Delight both ran in the Derby.

It’s a wide-open event this year, with the Richard Hannon-trained Son Of The Stars, to be ridden by Oisin Murphy, the early favourite.

The Jockey Club is simulcasting all six races from Royal Ascot on Thursday night, with the opener getting underway at 9.30pm.