QIPCO King George Weekend features the midsummer jewel in the Flat racing crown with the Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes. Regarded as Europe’s premier midseason middle-distance championship race for horses of both sexes and all ages, this year’s renewal looks one of the most exciting in recent history.
Superstar Enable will look to extend her winning run to 11 while the highest rated horse in the world this year Crystal Ocean bids to go one better having been second in the race last year and the Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck puts the reputation of the three-year-olds on the line.
The seven race card on Friday features a Listed race in the shape of the Acorn Insurance British EBF Valiant Stakes which is run over a mile on the round course. For fillies and mares aged three-years-old and upwards, it has attracted a field of eight, headed by Anna Nerium who is already a Group Three winner this year in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom.
Magnetic Charm, an unlucky runner up in the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot, represents Her Majesty The Queen under Ryan Moore while Main Edition, winner of the Albany Stakes in 2018 and the German 1,000 Guineas this year, runs for Mark Johnston who is enjoying an excellent July as usual.
Also on the card is the Anders Foundation British EBF Crocker Bulteel Maiden Stakes, named after the former Clerk of the Course at Ascot and open only to horses that have not run more than once. Mr Kiki for Michael Bell is an interesting runner having cost 450,000 guineas at the Tattersalls Book 2 sale last year while Surf Dancer for William Haggas and Ryan Moore was also an expensive purchase at €260,000 from the Goffs Orby sale. The powerful Godolphin operation are represented by Man Of Promise.
Ascot’s most valuable race in the calendar takes place on Saturday with the Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes worth £1.25 million. First run in 1951 and formed as a combination of two other middle-distance races, it presents the first major opportunity for the best three-year-olds from the Classic generation to take on the best older horses over a mile and a half.
This year that is exactly what we have got with the Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck lining up against two of the very best middle distance horses of recent time in Crystal Ocean and Enable. Crystal Ocean is currently the highest rated horse in the world after an impressive victory in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot while superstar Enable is a multiple Group One winner and bidding to win the race for a second time after success in 2017.
There is depth and quality throughout though with Waldgeist and Defoe both Group One winners already this season and Cheval Grand, the 2017 Japan Cup winner, offering international intrigue. It is one of the highest quality renewals of the race in recent years, with the pre-race average rating of the top four being 123.25 – only the 2012 renewal has been higher in last 15 years.
Elsewhere on the card we could see a future star in the shape of Summer Romance in the Group Three Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes. Charlie Appleby’s filly has been very impressive in her two starts so far, winning a Listed race by six lengths at Newmarket in June. So Sharp made a winning debut for Archie Watson at Newbury from the reopposing Dark Lady and neither of those should be underestimated while Punita Arora travels over from Ireland for Jessica Harrington after winning a Navan maiden.
The Moet & Chandon International Stakes is a hugely valuable seven furlong Heritage Handicap worth £150,000 and has attracted a maximum field of 29. Last year’s winner Burnt Sugar has shown minimal form since but is back on an attractive mark and could run well if enjoying the return to Ascot while Raising Sand and Ripp Orf both love it here and ran well in the Royal Hunt Cup.
Kaseo is another who has run well at Ascot and is enjoying a fine season with two wins already in competitive handicaps and Blue Mist is still plausibly well handicapped if rediscovering the potential he showed earlier in his career.