This weekend, Ascot welcomes one of British flat racing’s finest flat spectacles, with a firework display of Group 1 racing, courtesy of the Qipco-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The £1.25 million Group 1 showpiece takes place over one mile and four furlongs and is open to horses three years of age and over. In its 67th year, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is one of Britain’s most prestigious open age flat races with an illustrious list of former winners to its name such as Shergar taking the title in 1981. The expected going is good to firm in places and 8 horses look set to go to post.
Newmarket-based trainer Sir Michael Stoute has an excellent record in the King George with horses such as Conduit (2009) and Harbinger (2010) to name his more recent winners of the race. The English trainer holds a strong hand with two runners going to post in this year’s renewal. Poet’s Word a five-year-old son of Poet’s Voice, will once again be ridden by James Doyle, who also steered him to victory at Ascot last month in the Prince of Wales Stakes when beating the John Gosden-trained Cracksman by two and a quarter lengths, who he will again go head to head with on Saturday.
However, it is the Sir Evelyn De Rothschild owned Sea The Stars colt, Crystal Ocean who may be Stoute’s golden ticket to regaining the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. William Buick has picked up the spare ride due to Ryan Moore having Ballydoyle riding commitments, as Moore had previously partnered the Sir Michael Stoute trained four-year-old to victory in each of his three starts this season.
Crystal Ocean could be the horse Sir Michael Stoute needs to continue his winning ways at the Ascot track, as he is bidding for a record-breaking sixth victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien has had recent success in the King George as Ryan Moore steered O’Brien’s Highland Reel to victory in the race two years ago. Previous to this, O’Brien won the race back in 2007 with Dylan Thomas as Johnny Murtagh did the steering and Duke Of Marmalade in 2008 with Johnny Murtagh also aboard.
The Ballydoyle trainer will be represented by two runners in the feature with Rostropovich and Hydrangea.
Rostropovich is a son of Frankel who has run well this year without getting his head in front at the highest level. His previous run witnessed him put in an improved display by finishing second to Latrobe in the Irish Derby at the Curragh last month. He could be one to watch in the race as he is clearly improving at a rate of knots.
Last year’s race was one to remember as Frankie Dettori steered the John Gosden-trained, Enable to a four and a half-length victory over Ulysses.
Unfortunately for five-time King George winning jockey, Frankie Dettori, he will not be returning to the saddle at Ascot this week due to the verdict of his appeal to reduce his current 10-day careless riding ban which after appealing, was only reduced to a six-day ban.
Coronet is another John Gosden-trained inmate set to go to post in the King George. The Denford Stud-owned four-year-old filly has run very well on both starts this season including when most recently finishing second to Waldgeist in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
Selection: Crystal Ocean
Ascot also plays host to the Gigaset International Stakes Handicap which takes place at 3.00pm. This hugely valuable and competitive handicap has a prize fund of £150,000 which will inevitably attract some of the best seven-furlong horses and best sprint trainers from the U.K. eager to take home the pot of gold.
If one was to look at previous winners in the last ten years, Mark Johnston has won the race three times in the last ten years, all with four-year-olds. This year Johnston has to rely on the smart Cardsharp, who will have the assistance of the talented James Doyle. The North Yorkshire based trainer will need to get some improvement from the son of Lonhro but he does have a track record of doing just that.
Last year’s winner Stamp Hill was guided by jockey Paul Hanagan to do all the running to take the title for Richard Fahey at an amazing price of 50/1. Last year’s spectacle proved it is a very open race and there is hope for every outsider.
Fahey has entered the Godolphin-owned Brian The Snail in this year’s and although the name may be off-putting, at a general price of 25/1 he may be one to consider. The four-year-old gelding had a wind operation completed only last January so it may prove worthwhile to side with him at Ascot on Saturday.
The Richard Hannon-trained Oh This Is Us won the Corbettsports City Plate Stakes at Chester on July 14th last and put up an impressive display in doing so. The five-year-old son of Acclamation will have to burden top weight if he’s to win the race and even though he is in good from this may prove too tough.
Roger Fell landed a punt when Burnt Sugar landed the Bunbury Cup in somewhat snug fashion two weeks ago. He is now aiming to land back to back competitive handicaps and he must have a live chance of doing so.
Selection: Burnt Sugar
The Dash handicap at York looks like another typically competitive Saturday handicap that will take a doctorate to pick the winner. That been said there is definite hope for punters as four of the last 5 winners have returned as the favourite. David O’Meara looks to hold leading claims for this year’s renewal with the recent Scurry winner Intisaab. This looks like a strong piece of form, but he will have to carry to weight if he is to get his head in front.
Last year’s winning trainer Tim Easterby is set to be represented by Golden Apollo, the previous course and distance winner has yet to get his head in front this season, but it would seem connections have had this race in mind and he looks sure to run a big race.
Tommy Taylor is a horse that’ll be familiar to most Saturday racing enthusiasts, Kevin Ryan’s smart four-year-old was a listed winner over course and distance last season and even though he hasn’t quite hit top gear this season, he’s down to a nice mark and with minimal improvement he will take all the beating.
Of those on the lower weights, I think Boy In The Bar may surprise a few people back down to a low handicap mark. Ian Willian’s inmate was a beaten favourite when last seen but for those who keep the faith, they may be rewarded at handsome odds.
Selection: Golden Apollo
The Group 2 York Stakes is an intriguing contest, where a lot of horses are on redemption missions. None more so than Irish 2000 Guineas flop Elarqam who was sent off as a hot favourite for the Curragh feature following a credible run in the English equivalent, but he ultimately finished a disappointing sixth.
Forest Ranger was one of the “buzz” horses leading up the Coral-Eclipse following two impressive group performances, but the son of Lawman proved a bitter disappointment when trailing in last of the seven runners.
The South African bred Smart Call had a very tall reputation when joining Sir Michael Stoute on the back of two Group 1 victories in April 2017. It has taken the daughter of Ideal World nine starts to get her head in front on British soil. That win came last time out in a Group 3 on the all-weather at Newcastle.
Richard Kingscote will be hoping this confidence-boosting victory will spurn Smart Call on to land back to back wins.
Others to note include Euginio, Fabricate and Thundering Blue.
Selection: Smart Call
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