Watch the best of the King George VI & Queen Elizbeth Stakes from the past 60 years
We have a fabulous Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) in prospect and the country’s most prestigious open-age Flat race, won in the past by some of the very best such as Montjeu, Galileo, Dancing Brave, Nijinsky and, of course, Grundy after his epic duel with Bustino, looks a race to relish once again; it will be a real summer highlight.
The ground is being given as soft, and trainer John Gosden, who issued concerns regarding soft ground earlier in the week, is to do a pre-race morning course walk ahead of committing the race favourite, his unbeaten English Derby and Eclipse winner Golden Horn, to the test.
But, with the race-day forecast set fair, it has to be hoped that conditions should dry enough to ensure that the leading three-year-old of 2015 gets to take his chance. Big-race jockey Frankie Dettori is due to partner again.
Golden Horn comes into the race the clear top rated, but it won’t be easy for him to take on older horses for the first time over 1m4f – and he might have most to fear from the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Snow Sky (Pat Smullen) and Goden’s second string Eagle Top, ridden by retiring champion jockey Richard Hughes.
Both horses have experience of galloping up the Ascot hill and were first and second in the Hardwicke Stakes (G2) at the Royal meeting, a race traditionally used as a stepping-stone to this Group 1. Off level weights then, Snow Sky was the better horse and there is no reason why they should reverse placings with each other. Postponed was stopped in his run to finish third, but he is a better performer on fast ground anyway.
The more rain the better for Madame Chiang, our 2014 Qipco British Champions Fillies and Mares champion. She scored then on heavy ground and will enjoy the ground, but she just might be wanting in this, though she offers a good selection for each-way backers.
Dylan Mouth provides an interesting challenge from Italy. He has won two Group 1 races over 1m4f in his native country, last time by 5l, and once on soft. He was only eighth in the King Edward VII last year, but that is the only time he has been beaten
However, with Golden Horn’s 12lb weight-for-age advantage, it will take a huge performance from his rivals to stop the highly talented and progressive son of Cape Cross from collecting a third Group 1 in six weeks and establishing himself as Europe’s leading middle-distance runner.
Besharah to uphold Queen Mary form
The earlier Group race on the card sees seven juvenile fillies take each other on in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes over 6f (2.05). Royal Ascot form should stand up here – the likely favourite will be Besharah, who finished third in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes and was subsequently second in the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridgeshire Stakes at Newmarket in July. She deserves a Group race success.
She may have most to fear from Salvo. The Acclamation filly has run once and won once, impressing all in the process. She could get owner Anthony Oppenheimer’s day off on to good start ahead of Golden Horn’s King George challenge.
Hannon: three in four years?
The opening Titanic Belfast Listed Winkfield Stakes (1.30) for two-year-old colts has been won in two of the last three years by the Richard Hannon team. The yard is represented this year by the once-raced winner Manaafidh. He is a son of Zebedee and might enjoy the ground a little better than Sir Michael Stoute’s Dansili colt, Platitude.
Azraff: will make the most of the ground
The Marco Botti-trained Azraff has form on soft ground, unlike most his rivals in the mile Weatherbys Private Banking Handicap (2.40), and he has a good chance of successfully carrying top-weight to victory. It will be a fun race for a bit of people spotting in the Parade Ring – Grand Inquisitor is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, while Pick You Choice runs in Her Majesty’s colours.
Bushcraft: one for the big handicap
A field of 29 goes to post for the day’s big 7f handicap, the Gigaset International Stakes. With a purse of £150,000, it is bound to be a highly competitive affair and finding a winner will be a challenge.
Many have previous Ascot form in similar handicaps – Redvers, Hawkeyethenoo, Don’t Call Me, Belgian Bill, Sirus Prospect, Field Of Dream, Heaven’s Guest and Suzi’s Connoisseur are all regulars here, but one of the most inexperienced might show them all a clean pair of hooves.
Bushcraft is having just a fifth career start having missed all of his three-year-old season. He has bounced back this year, is unbeaten in 2015 and is looking a very exciting prospect. It will be a big step up for him in a race of this nature and on this demanding track, but hopefully he is still a step ahead of the handicapper and this could be a transition to bigger things.
Jockey pick: an experienced lady and Dettori in the last
Take a chance with one of the most experienced riders in the 7f Longines Handicap Ladies’ (4.25) race, Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh or Serena Brotherton, while the concluding 1m4f Canisbay Bloodstock Handicap (5.00) should go to last time out winner Master Zephyr. Dettori rides and the horse could easily give the age-less jockey a third winner on the card.