The exciting entries for Ascot’s midsummer showpiece, the Group One King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes which is staged over a mile and a half on Saturday.
There is a strong European flavour about the very prestigious contest, which has record prize money of £1.15 million after a recent 15 per cent boost, with four entries from France, two from Italy and one from Germany, plus 10 contenders from Ireland.
The French-trained contingent looks particularly strong with French Derby hero New Bay(Andre Fabre) and Dubai Sheema Classic heroine Dolniya (Alain de Royer Dupre) featuring. Fellow Group One winners Ecot (Elie Lellouche) and Flintshire (Andre Fabre) complete the Gallic quartet.
Novellist gave Andreas Wohler the biggest success of his career so far in the 2013 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored by QIPCO), and the German trainer is chasing glory this year with Karpino, the impressive winner of this year’s German 2,000 Guineas at Cologne.
The imperious Ribot handed Italy its only King George success back in 1956. Trainer Stefano Botti may attempt to add to that record in 2015 as he has made entries for Dylan Mouth, a dual Group One winner in his homeland, and for Celticus, who usually assumes the pacemaker role for his stablemate.
Recent impressive Derby and Eclipse winner Golden Horn (John Gosden) would become the 13th colt to complete the Derby/King George double in the same season and the first since Galileo in 2001 if successful in the 2015 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and is the red hot 4/5 favorite with the leading bookmakers.
Gosden, successful twice in the last four renewals of the King George with Nathaniel (2011) and Taghrooda (2014), has five entries, with his strong hand also including the Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs since won the Irish Derby, last year’s King Edward VII Stakes winner and King George fourth Eagle Top, the 2014 Derby third Romsdal and the unexposed Mahsoob, who has won on all of his three starts.
Sir Michael Stoute has landed the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes five times, a record he shares with Saeed bin Suroor and the late Dick Hern. The Newmarket handler hopes to go one better with Telescope, the three-length runner-up to Taghrooda in 2014, while he has also entered 2013 King Edward VII Stakes victor Hillstar, who landed the Grade One Canadian International at Woodbine last year.
After his great performance last year, Telescope went on to finish a close fourth in Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. After being beaten narrowly on his seasonal reappearance in the Group Two Dunaden At Overbury Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on May 2, the five-year-old Galileo horse got back to winning ways with an impressive six-length victory in the Listed Al Rayyan Stakes over mile and a half at Newbury on May 16. He is due to run next in the 12-furlong Group Two Hardwicke Stakes on the final day of Royal Ascot, Saturday, June 20, a race he won by seven lengths in 2014.
Harry Herbert, managing director of owner Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s Wavertree Syndicate, commented: “Everything is going really well with Telescope and Sir Michael is very pleased with the way he came out of the Newbury race.
“His next target was always going to be the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and touch wood that is where he will be running next week. He seems in very good form, is holding his condition well and everyone at Freemason Lodge is more than happy with him.
“The King George will also definitely come into play. As with all Sir Michael horses, it’s one step at a time but the King George is definitely his midsummer target providing he shows his best in the Hardwicke Stakes.
“He is not short of speed but he seems more at home over 12 furlongs. He likes a strong run race and Ascot seems to suit him – he has never run a bad race there.”
Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien, successful in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes three times, has the most entries of any trainer with nine contenders in total. These include the shock 50/1 Investec Oaks winner Qualify, Investec Derby fourth Giovanni Canaletto and French Derby runner-up Highland Reel, plus the highly-rated John F Kennedy and Ol’ Man River who have yet to hit form this year.
The other Irish-trained entry is last year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes third Free Eagle (Dermot Weld).
Other leading contenders include The Grey Gatsby (Kevin Ryan), rated the joint-top three-year-old colt in the world last year following wins in the French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes.
Pether’s Moon (Richard Hannon) put up a career-best performance at Epsom on June 6 to capture the Group One Investec Coronation Cup, defeating Dolniya and Flintshire, while Just The Judge (Charlie Hills) is chasing a first Group One win over a mile and a half, having scored at the highest level over both a mile and 10 furlongs. Storm The Stars has been the subject of good money this week ( 5/1 from 6/1 with Coral ) for the Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes at Doncaster on September 12. Acapulco is the subject of good money with Hills ( 2/1 from 5/2 ) for the Coolmore Nunthorpe at York on August 21.
Yours in sport.
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Kevan Minter – The Colonel.