A Look Towards the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot

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Following the wondrous 2017 Royal Ascot meeting at the Berkshire track, the next installment of top class Ascot racing takes place at the end of July, with the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes being the undoubted highlight.

First run in 1951, the twelve furlongs contest rapidly established itself as one of the most prestigious middle distance events in the world and attracts some of the top thoroughbreds from Europe and beyond. As the race is open to three-year-olds and upwards, the King George offers the first major chance for the best of the current Classic generation to take on the leading older horses over a mile and a half.

This year’s renewal looks to be another fantastic race in prospect – provided the leading contenders stand their ground, with less than two weeks till the big race.

Money-machine

Irish super-trainer, Aiden O’Brien has a multitude of stable stars, but the globetrotting money-machine that is Highland Reel, must surely be at the top of his list. Owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor, the son of Galileo has accumulated almost six million pounds in prize money – and the current ante post market leader for the King George could mop up another huge prize here. Following a below-par effort in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan back in March, the return to British racetracks has seen Highland Reel back to form with wins in Epsom’s Coronation Cup (1m4f) and Ascot’s Prince Of Wales’ Stakes over ten furlongs. One note of caution for favourite backers is that the five year-old has never won on any going worse than good ground.

Youthful chance

John Gosden’s Enable surely holds the best three-year old chance of claiming the King George after two highly impressive wins in the English and Irish Oaks. The Khalid Abdullah owned filly saw off the well-backed Rhododendron at Epsom with an eye-catching performance of speed and stamina. Most recently at the Curragh, Enable landed the Irish equivalent at short odds by spread-eagling the field to win by five and a half lengths. Following the Curragh victory, Gosden intimated that Enable “would take on the colts at some stage, but she has come back with a nick on the outside of her off-fore and we’ll have to check that out.” Gosden now has a race against time to get his star filly ready for Ascot, but the veteran trainer has several other race options to consider.

Improving colt

Following his recent Sandown victory in the Coral-Eclipse, the Sir Michael Stoute trained Ulysses has since seen plenty of ante-post market support for the King George. Ulysses rewarded trainer Stoute’s patience and faith by edging out Barney Roy in a thrilling finish to a great clash between the generations at the Esher venue, and Ascot could be next on the agenda for the improving four year-old. After finishing around a length and a half behind Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes, Ulysses – another son of Galileo – will have to show improvement to challenge the Coolmore horse if he is to mount a serious challenge.

Best of the rest

The likely Aiden O’Brien second string could be Idaho, who proved his wellbeing by landing the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting last month. Ridden by Seamie Heffernan, the four year-old stayed on well after claiming the lead, and now deserves his chance again at open Group 1 level. John Gosden may also be double-handed in the race with Jack Hobbs, who must put a disappointing performance behind him in Prince of Wales’ Stakes at Ascot. Godolphin’s best hope of victory could lie with Frontiersman, who put in a career best effort despite defeat to Hawkbill at Newmarket recently.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 12-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into the 2016 Kentucky Derby Betting Championship. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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