10th May 2017

THE HISTORY OF THE KING GEORGE VI AND QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES


The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored by QIPCO) was first run in 1951. The mile and a half contest quickly established itself as one of the most prestigious middle distance events in the world and regularly attracts the best horses from Europe and further afield. It is the second richest race on the British racing calendar, with a prize fund of £1,000,000.

Being open to three-year-olds and upwards, the King George presents the first major opportunity for the cream of the Classic generation to take on the best older horses over a mile and a half.

1950s

The first running was called the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Festival of Britain Stakes because of the 1951 Festival of Britain, held to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in south London.

It was the richest-ever race run in Britain, worth £25,322 to the winner, and attracted an incredibly strong field, including three British Classic winners and six French raiders, with 19 runners in all lining up, still the biggest field to have gone to post.

Supreme Court was victorious under Charlie Elliott in the inaugural running, defeating Zucchero by three quarters of a length and maintaining his unbeaten record as a three-year-old.

A year later Tulyar became the first of 13 Derby winners to go on and win the King George in the same year, despite Charlie Smirke putting up 2lb overweight, with a neck victory over Gay Time.

The following year, Pinza, another Derby winner, who had given Gordon Richards his first success in the Epsom Downs Classic at the 28th attempt, was triumphant by a comfortable three lengths.

Queen Elizabeth II secured the contest named in honour of her parents when Aureole triumphed in the heavy ground that prevailed in 1954, while Vimy, trained in France by Alec Head, became the first overseas winner in 1955.

Italy's greatest-ever horse, Ribot, was the facile winner in 1956. Trained by Ugo Penco and ridden by Enrico Camici, he defeated High Veldt by five lengths enabling him to continue his unbeaten run which ultimately resulted in 16 straight victories.

Ballymoss provided the great Irish trainer Vincent O'Brien with the first of his three King George victories in 1958 and then won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.


A brief history of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes


1960s

The first half of the 1960s was dominated by horses trained in France and Ireland. Right Royal V and Match III were triumphant for France in 1961 and 1962 respectively, while Nasram II gave the French another win in 1964. Ireland enjoyed two successes during this period, both trained by Paddy Prendergast, Ragusa (1963) and Meadow Court (1965).

Lester Piggott still holds the record number of King George wins for a jockey and the great rider recorded the first of his seven wins aboard Meadow Court. Piggott followed up in 1966 on Aunt Edith, the first filly to win the King George and the first of three consecutive successes for Newmarket trainer Noel Murless. The Murless hat-trick was completed courtesy of Busted (1967) and Royal Palace (1968). Park Top's last-to-first victory gave Piggott his third King George victory in 1969


1970s

At the beginning of the 70s Piggott claimed his greatest win in the race when Nijinsky, who subsequently completed the Triple Crown, defeated the previous year's Derby winner Blakeney by an effortless two lengths.

Mill Reef was the impressive six-length victor in 1971, while 1972 saw his great rival Brigadier Gerard record his only victory over a mile and a half as he defeated Parnell by a length and a half.

The admirable French-trained filly Dahlia became the first dual King George winner when she was successful in 1973 and 1974, with Australian Bill Pyers in the saddle for her first triumph when she came from last to first, and Lester Piggott aboard for the second victory.

Her owner, the flamboyant Texan Nelson Bunker Hunt, had not been keen to run in 1973, as Dahlia had only appeared in the Irish Oaks the week before and was a three-year-old filly running against the colts. Her trainer, Maurice Zilber, thought otherwise: “I declared her, anyway. Then I phoned him and said, ‘She has to run’. Bunker Hunt said, ‘Give me half an hour and I'll phone you back’.

He phoned back and said, ‘If you run her and she wins, okay. If she gets beaten, I will take all my horses away from you’. I said, “Fine, but get on a plane. This may be your first and last chance to meet the Queen of England’.”

Dahlia attempted the treble in 1975 but had to be satisfied with third place in what was described by many as the "Race of the Century". Grundy, who had landed the Derby and Irish Derby earlier in the season, and Bustino, the previous year's St Leger hero, fought out a tremendous battle up the home straight with the Peter Walwyn-trained Grundy just managing to prevail by half a length, setting a then race record time of 2 minutes 26.98 seconds, which stood for 35 years.

Over the next few years the best winners included in 1977 The Minstrel, successful earlier in the Derby, who showed all of his renowned courage to deny Orange Bay by a short-head.

Troy in 1979 was another Derby winner to go on to glory at Ascot, defeating Gay Mecene by a length and a half.


1980s

 

Two years later Shergar followed in the footsteps of Nijinsky, Grundy, The Minstrel and Troy by completing the treble of the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and King George when the facile four-length winner.

Teenoso, the previous year's Derby winner, put up a brave pillar to post performance under Lester Piggott in 1984 to give the jockey his final King George triumph.

Dancing Brave showed himself to be an outstanding performer with his 1986 victory over Shadari and Triptych with Shahrastani, who defeated him at Epsom in the Derby, back in fourth.

Reference Point (1987), Nashwan (the shortest-priced winner at 2/9 in 1989) continued the good run of Derby winners in the King George.

1990s

The brilliant Generous, another Derby winner, won by seven lengths in 1991 - until 2010, the greatest winning margin.

Godolphin enjoyed the first of five King George triumphs in 1995 when Lammtarra, trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by Frankie Dettori, prevailed in a thrilling finish by a neck from Pentire.

Lammtarra was undefeated in his four-race career and won the Epsom Derby, King George and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same season, following in the footsteps of Mill Reef.

Pentire gained compensation for his narrow reversal of 1995 when he triumphed in 1996, defeating Derby winner Shaamit in the process. Pentire's victory heralded a period of King George history when the older horses would reign supreme.

Godolphin's Swain became the second horse to win twice, being successful in 1997, when ridden by John Reid, and in 1998, with Frankie Dettori up. His victory in 1998, over Derby scorer High-Rise, at the age of six means he is also the oldest horse to have won the King George.

It was to be three consecutive wins for Godolphin when Daylami was the impressive five-length scorer from his stable companion Nedawi in 1999, giving Frankie Dettori his third King George triumph.


2000s

 

Montjeu's win in 2000 was certainly the easiest of Michael Kinane's five successes as the exceptional Sadler's Wells colt, trained in France by John Hammond, defeated Fantastic Light by an effortless length and three quarters. Kinane had to work harder a year later when Galileo, the first Epsom Derby winner to land the Ascot race since Lammtarra, came home two lengths clear of Fantastic Light, who gained his revenge later in the season when placings were reversed in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Golan won on his seasonal reappearance in 2002, while a year later the Irish-trained Alamshar was the impressive three and a half-length victor, with Godolphin's Sulamani taking second. Godolphin's fifth victory came in 2004, when Doyen followed up on his earlier Ascot success in the Hardwicke Stakes with a three-length defeat of Hard Buck. The runner-up was trained in the USA by Kenny McPeek, further emphasising the international prestige the King George enjoys.

The 2005 race, run at Newbury as Ascot was undergoing redevelopment, went to Azamour, a second King George win for Irish trainer John Oxx and a fifth for Michael Kinane.

Heart's Cry, second in the 2005 Japan Cup and winner of the 2006 Dubai Sheema Classic, played his part in one of the most memorable finishes to the King George in recent memory in 2006. A protracted battle saw the five-year-old Japanese runner finish a length third to 2005 Arc winner Hurricane Run, with Dubai World Cup victor Electrocutionist splitting the pair.

"It was a world-class race and to come so close with a horse who had travelled all the way from Japan was one of the greatest thrills that any owner would wish for," owner Teruya Yoshida said after the race. “In Japan, the King George is recognised as one of the most prestigious and important races in the global calendar and we'll be back!" Heart’s Cry was watched by 10 million people on the Green Channel at home in spite of the race going off close to midnight there.

Aidan O’Brien landed back-to-back wins in 2007 and 2008 with Dylan Thomas and Duke Of Marmalade with both colts ending those respective seasons as the top older horse in Europe.

Sir Michael Stoute saddled a remarkable 1-2-3 in the 2009 King George with Conduit defeating stablemates Tartan Bearer and Ask. Conduit, winner of the 2008 St Leger, went on to win a second Breeders’ Cup Turf later in 2009.

Stoute took his tally in the race to five a year later when Harbinger pulverised a top-class field by a record margin of 11 lengths, defeating Irish Derby and subsequent Irish Champion Stakes winner Cape Blanco (2nd) and Epsom Derby hero Workforce (5th), who went on to land the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later in the year. The four-year-old also smashed Grundy’s record time as he stopped the clock at 2m 26.78s to make it four wins from as many starts that term. He was rated the world’s top horse for that effort with a World Thoroughbred Ranking of 135, 6lb clear of the next best, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame. Injury prevented the colt from running again.

In 2011 Nathaniel became the first three-year-old to succeed since Alamshar in 2003. The son of Galileo was supplemented for the race after a comfortable success over the course and distance in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and was a first King George winner for his trainer John Gosden and jockey William Buick.

Danedream become the first German-trained winner of the great race in 2012. The Peter Schiergen-trained filly, ridden by Andreas Starke, saw off 2012 victor Nathaniel by a nose in a thrilling finish.

Last year, Germany struck again in devastating fashion courtesy of the Andreas Wohler-trained Novellist. The four-year-old beat Irish Derby hero Trading Leather by five lengths in a course record time of 2m 24.60s.


 

@Ascot