King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes Preview
The King George Stakes is run over the 1m4f trip at Ascot and has produced some top-class winners such as MONTJEU, GALILEO, HURRICANE RUN, NATHANIEL, TAGHROODA, HARBINGER, CONDUIT and many, many more. The list of winners are exceptional. This time around the ever so tough HIGHLAND REEL goes for back-to-back titles following last year’s success, can he do it?
I will now go into detail on the 2017 runners.
DESERT ENCOUNTER (David Simcock/Sean Levey)
Developing into a very smart horse and is yet to finish outside the top-three in 11 starts since his debut. He’s a Listed winner over C&D and ran a blinder last time to finish third behind BARNEY ROY and ULYSSES in the Coral Eclipse. He likes this track, will handle the ground and is likely to run his race again. But I can’t see this former handicapper winning a Group 1 today against this high-class field and I will be shocked if he can even reach the frame, let alone win the race. He’s worth opposing for me until dropped back in class.
HIGHLAND REEL (Aidan Obrien/Ryan Moore)
Tough as old boots and he simply doesn’t know when to quit, so tough in a battle and is one of the best front-runners I have ever witnessed. A six-time Group 1 winner in three different continents and his course form around at Ascot reads 112. He clearly likes it at this venue and everytime doubters write him off, he comes back and wins at the highest level. There is no doubting his class, ability, toughness and charisma. But, my one concern is the fact the ground will be a major problem because all of his winning form has come on better ground and his record on good to soft or worse is very poor. I have my doubts about him on this going and this could well be one race too many having had such a hard season. His class might get him into the frame, but he’s definitely vulnerable on this ground against other top-class horses, who will like the slower surface. Also five-year-olds have a poor record in this race, which is another negative for him.
IDAHO (Aidan Obrien/Seamie Heffernan)
IDAHO is the full-brother to HIGHLAND REEL and I am keen on him running a big race. He’s yet to bag a Group 1 success but he’s run well in them having been placed in the English and Irish Derby back in 2015 and probably would have won the St Leger but for unseating at a crucial stage. There are various reasons why I like this. Firstly, he’s battle hardened horse, has natural pace and will love these conditions. Finally he put it all together when landing the Hardwick Stakes Group 2 at Royal Ascot in great style. He comes into the race full of confidence and he is the perfect age as four-year-old horses have a great record in this. We know he’s got proven C&D form, handles all types of ground and has experience on his side for this kind of race. I don’t mind if either Ryan Moore or Seamie Heffernan rides because the latter won him last time. Surely he must run well here with everything in his favour.
JACK HOBBS (John Gosden/William Buick)
JACK HOBBS is clearly a fragile horse but when he’s good, he’s very good. Connections were quick to use reasons as to why he flopped last time and ought to be well suited on this ground with proven high-class form to his name. Twice he finished behind GOLDEN HORN before landing the Irish Derby in breathtaking style and he was a close-up third behind ALMANZOR and FOUND in the Champion Stakes last year at this track and filled the same position the year before on very similar ground to today’s. He reappeared this year in the Dubai Sheema Classic on slower ground where he destroyed a high-class field including HIGHLAND REEL and POSTPONED. I am sure John Gosden wouldn’t be running him here without thinking he can make a serious impact. He’s a top-class racehorse and I am sure we will see him put in a better performance. But, at the prices he does come with risks attached and being a five-year-old is a huge negative for this race.
MAVERICK WAVE (John Gosden/Graham Lee)
Likely to be used as pacemaker for JACK HOBBS and at odds 100/1 is one to avoid. He would need the biggest performance of his life to even reach the frame here despite running a near career-best last time when finishing a good fourth over 1m2f here at Royal Ascot in a tough handicap.
MY DREAM BOAT (Clive Cox/Adam Kirby)
Definitely an interesting runner who usually comes late on the scene in his races and he has two solid performances to his name at this venue. Notably, when landing the Prince of Wales’s Stakes beating Arc winner FOUND on soft ground over the 1m2f trip. He also finished fourth in the Champion Stakes last year coming from so far back. However, I think he needs at least 2m these days and the ground doesn’t look like it would be soft enough for him and he would need to improve massively on what he’s shown this season. Although he ran well in a Group 1 in France last time on good ground when fourth behind ZARAK. Adam Kirby has a good record on him but the pair will need everything to fall apart up front if he’s going to land a second Group 1 success. He’s still an each-way player at overpriced odds though but I’m concerned that he’s starting to look exposed at the top level despite the fact he is still running well.
ULYSSES (Sir Michael Stoute/Jim Crowley)
No doubt this young progressive four-year-old is the dark horse in the race. He’s improved with each start and finally gained his first Group 1 success last time when landing the Coral Eclipse at Sandown over 1m2f. Jim Crowley gave him a sublime ride and he came there on the bridle 2f out upsides BARNEY ROY, but many would have expected him to power away and win easily. The simple fact is he didn’t, and looked as though he only just does enough when hitting the front. That’s a worry against stronger company today and he’s also stepping up to 1m4f, which I think is a negative. I know he won last time but he’s not certain to travel with ease like he did that day and this ground is so much different. I have full respect for ULYSSES and he might run into a place but I doubt he will complete the Group 1 double as he had a hard race that day, especially when BARNEY ROY chucked everything at him and he seemed to empty out at the line and only just held on. I can’t underestimate him here, but he would need to improve again if he’s to win this stronger race.
SIXTIES SONG (Dassie/Gérard Mosse)
SIXTIES SONG maybe a 66/1 chance, but he claimed top-level victories in Chile and Argentina. Connections hold this horse in high regard and they travel a really long way with there star performer. I just think he would have to be out of the ordinary to win this Group 1 on first try in the UK. He’s clearly a top-class horse in his own country but this race demands a lot more againt the best of the best. I’d be hopeful to see him finish in the first six home, but I doubt he will go close to winning this despite coming a long way for obvious good reasons.
BENBATL (Saeed Bin Suroor/Oisin Murphy)
Saeed Bin Suroor last won this race back in 2004 with DOYEN and they solely rely on BENBATL, who has some pretty good form to his name having ran well behind PERMIAN before coming from so far back in the Epsom Derby to claim 5th place having been 18th position turning into the home straight. He was given an awful lot to do and would have gone close if ridden closer to the pace. I like the way he made amends when a commanding winner in a Group 3 at Royal Ascot when ridden more prominently but again, this one needs to improve if he’s to land this competitive Group 1 against proven top-class racehorses. He might turn out to be a Group 1 horse, but he would need to improve a ton to figure in this. However, connections must think he’s a high-class horse in the making, taking on the best today and I wouldn’t put it past him reaching the frame at double-figure odds under Oisin Murphy, who gave him a peach of a ride last time out.
ENABLE (John Gosden/Frankie Dettori)
Last but not least it’s the triple Oaks winner filly ENABLE, who could become one of the greatest Fillies of all time if she wins this race. John Gosden must feel she is something special to even supplement her for this having won the Irish Oaks two weeks ago five lengths without breaking sweat. She recieves weight all around which gives her an advantage and she looks the type to keep on improving. I still don’t think we have seen the best of her yet but this race may come too soon and we aren’t sure what it took out if her at the Curragh last time despite it looking so easy. I personally think she will take a lot of beating if turning up in the same form but at her odds currently, surely there is better value elsewhere and I would rather be backing something at better price. She might win this easily and become a superstar, but there is no value at 6/5 against top-class proven globetrotters.
A top-class renewal but I don’t have a strong opinion on the race as it would be pointless wasting bank profit on something I am not 100% confident selecting with a lot of question marks surrounding the field on the ground, recent form and other bits and pieces. Remember, you don’t need to bet for the sake of it and I will be sitting back enjoying this classy Group 1 unfold. A must watch whether you bet on the race or not. I hope that the race will turn out to be something special. Best of luck.