Last year’s winner Postponed (5/4 favourite with most of the leading bookmakers) headlines 39 top-class entries for the £1.15-million Group One King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored by QIPCO) at Ascot on Saturday, July 23.
The number of entries this year, which include 14 three-year-olds, is significantly up for the summer showpiece of the European Flat season, with 31 put forward in 2015, 35 in 2014 and 29 in 2013.
Five-year-old Postponed is bidding to become only the third dual winner of Ascot’s 12-furlong flagship race, following on from Swain (1997 & 1998) and Dahlia (1973 & 1974).
Formerly trained by Luca Cumani, the Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum-owned Postponed is unbeaten in three starts this year for new handler Roger Varian and was last seen out when defeating Found(Aidan O’Brien) impressively by four and a half lengths in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup (Sponsored by Investec) at Epsom Downs on June 4.
Investec Derby hero Harzand (Dermot Weld) headlines 14 entries from Ireland. The son of Sea The Stars could bid to become the 13th colt to complete the Derby/King George double in the same season and the first since Galileo in 2001.
Aidan O’Brien, Ireland’s champion Flat trainer, accounts for 12 entries in total, the most of any handler. His possibles, besides Found, include Minding, who took her Group One tally to four in the British Classic, the Investec Oaks, at Epsom Downs on Saturday, June 4, Gold Cup favourite Order Of St George, globe-trotting dual Group One winner Highland Reel and impressive French 2,000 Guineas victor The Gurkha. The Investec Derby runner-up and third, US Army Ranger and Idaho, also feature among the Ballydoyle contingent.
Khalid Abdullah’s famous colours were carried to victory in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes by the great Dancing Brave in 1986 and the owner has three contenders this time. They are last year’s Prix du Jockey Club victor New Bay (Andre Fabre FR), impressive Royal Ascot scorer Time Test (Roger Charlton) and big improver Exosphere (Sir Michael Stoute), who thrashed his rivals by four lengths in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket when returning to action this year.
Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager to the owner, said: “Exosphere is in good form and is heading towards the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.”
“He had been working nicely going into the Jockey Club Stakes but, with two Classic winners in there [Simple Verse and Jack Hobbs], we were far from confident.”
“He follows a pretty well-trodden Sir Michael Stoute pathway and we were very happy with the way he quickened and put the race to bed.”
“Time Test is good after winning nicely at Sandown [Group Three Brigadier Gerard Stakes on May 26]. We were very pleased with him and he now goes for the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.”
“As far as he is concerned, I would say the King George is just a precautionary entry. He could stay a mile and a half and we just wanted to have that covered, but primarily we feel is 10-furlong horse.”
“New Bay did not work to Andre Fabre’s satisfaction on Tuesday morning and will not be coming over to Royal Ascot. He is fine but did not please enough in his work to bring him for a Group One. Soundness-wise he has got no problems so we will give him a bit more time and regroup.”
Other eye-catching entries include Group One scorers The Grey Gatsby (Kevin Ryan) and Cannock Chase(Sir Michael Stoute), plus the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Godolphin pair of Elite Army and Beautiful Romance.
Champion British Flat trainer John Gosden has three entries, last year’s nose runner-up Eagle Top, Group Two Dante Stakes victor and Investec Derby fourth Wings Of Desire, and the consistent Western Hymn.
Brando 12/1 with Sky Bet has a leading chance in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot on the final day of the Royal meeting.
Yours In Sport!