ASCOT stages one of the highlights of the Flat season tomorrow when a field of 10 line up for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (3.35pm) which is sponsored by Qipco.
The obvious starting point is last year’s winner Highland Reel, who comes here on the back of recent Group One successes at Epsom in the Coronation Cup and at Royal Ascot in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien’s globe-trotting superstar has already amassed the best part of £6 million in prize-money and victory tomorrow will make him Europe’s biggest ever earner.
However, more than 20mm of rain has fallen at Ascot over the last week with the chance of more to come today.
At the time of writing the going is no longer fast and is good to soft with every chance it could get even softer.
That certainly doesn’t play to Highland Reel’s strengths and that’s why he has drifted from 6/4 this last week to 5/1 with Coral this morning.
His career form figures on ground worse than good read 6258277, so every drop of rain that falls between now and the race will hinder his chances.
Highland Reel’s stablemate Idaho got back to winning ways in the Hardwicke Stakes at last month’s Royal meeting but is yet to win at Group One level and needs to step up massively to take a hand here.
While O’Brien’s grip on this valuable prize has somewhat weakened over the last week, the reverse can be said of John Gosden.
This race has always been a potential target for JACK HOBBS, but on Wednesday it was decided that he would be joined by the three-year-old multiple Oaks winning filly ENABLE.
She has quite simply improved beyond all recognition since finishing third to Shutter Speed at Newbury on her much-needed seasonal reappearance.
An impressive victory in the Cheshire Oaks back in May was followed by a brilliant five-length demolition job in the Investec Oaks at Epsom.
Having been joined at the two-furlong pole by hot favourite Rhododendron, she showed grit and determination to outstay her to the line that day.
Yet, it was her performance in the Irish Oaks last time that had clock-watchers salivating as she proved she also possesses speed as well as stamina.
She quickened away from some pretty smart fillies and Timeform’s Jamie Lynch this week observed that she clocked the last three furlongs in just 33 seconds, which stacks up in comparison with Frankel when he won the Sussex Stakes.
I’m not saying that she is the new Frankel, it’s just that she is maturing into a very special filly who should be incredibly hard to beat here, particularly as she gets a stone in weight form the older horses.
At just 11/10 with Ladbrokes, we are not going to get rich backing her.
That said, we may get ourselves poorer trying to find something to beat her.
Those more speculative amongst you could do a lot worse than take some of the 5/1 available with Coral about her for the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe in October as that looks to be where she will head from here.
If she is to get beaten tomorrow afternoon, it will most likely be by her stablemate Jack Hobbs who has been crying out for 12 furlongs on rain-softened ground.
Without Enable in this field he would be a confident selection on the back of his Meydan win earlier in the year.
The ground was way too fast for him here last time and the ten-furlong trip also against him.
He is a rock-solid forecast selection and will be hard to keep out of the frame.
Ulysses was an impressive winner of the Coral Eclipse at Sandown last time, but that was over two furlongs less and he won’t get the decent ground he relishes.
For my last pick, I’m going for one at a big price and that’s another Godolphin-owned runner (they also own Jack Hobbs) BENBATL.
He gets a healthy three-year-old allowance and looks to be improving with every start.
Connections have long thought he wants rain-softened ground and he can go well here at 20/1 on the back of his Royal Ascot win.
If you haven’t been to Ascot to see the King George, I advise you travel across to Berkshire for one of the highlights of the summer.
The gates open at 11am and tickets can still be purchased with advanced discount by visiting www.ascot.co.uk
BILL ESDAILE’S KING GEORGE VI & QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES 1-2-3.
- Jack Hobbs