TOMORROW’S Group One highlight, and next round of the QIPCO British Champions Series, the King George VΙ and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (4.35pm), is one of the most prestigious middle-distance races in the calendar and the Ascot showpiece is often the first time the Classic generation step up and meet their older counterparts. Although there is only one three-year-old in tomorrow’s race, the Japanese Derby winner Deep Brillante, this should not detract from a mouth-watering line-up.
Nathaniel, St Nicholas Abbey and Sea Moon are all currently jostling for favouritism, while Arc winner Danedream and Melbourne Cup hero Dunaden add further depth. Nathaniel is looking to become the first horse since Swain in 1998 to land successive renewals and is three from four at the Berkshire track. He will relish the cut in the ground, and the step up to a mile and a half, but the John Gosden-trained star is coming here just two weeks after a dogged victory in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and his handler has made no secret of his concerns at such a short break.
The son of Galileo beat St Nicholas Abbey by four lengths 12 months ago but the word from Ballydoyle is that their dual-Coronation Cup winner has improved since. I would be happy to dispute that as his only success this year was in a pretty weak race and the five-year-old hasn’t won going right-handed for nearly three years. His best form has also come on better ground.
My main fancy is SEA MOON at 5/2 with Coral. He has always been highly rated by the in-form Sir Michael Stoute, who has won this five times with the likes of Shergar, Conduit and Harbinger. Sea Moon has improved rapidly over the last year, bolting up in the Great Voltigeur before suffering a poor ride when favourite for the St Leger. At the Royal meeting last month he won the Hardwicke in grand style, a race that Harbinger won on his way to a runaway victory in this two years ago.
Dunaden was a very unlucky in-running second that day and is a serious threat, but at 7/1 with Coral I think the value has gone and the Mikel Delzangles horse will need a strong pace to bring his stamina into play.
In the 2.45pm handicap, CHIL THE KITE won really well at Doncaster under Ryan Moore and the Hughie Morrison colt still looks ahead of his mark. Not many in the race know how to win while Chil The Kite promises further improvement.
Ryan Moore is set to enjoy a great day with Stoute as CARLTON HOUSE is difficult to oppose in the Summer Mile Stakes at 3.20pm. There is a case for saying this former Derby favourite has been over-hyped throughout his career, but the Queen’s charge is well clear on official ratings and the drop back to eight furlongs and Group Two company should see him win. Tullius has been rampant for his new yard but his form is not in the same league as the selection.
Ascot hosts no shortage of competitive cavalry charges and the International Stakes (3.55pm) is another testing puzzle. With 29 runners it can be a lottery but I’m quite keen on the chances of LIGHTNING CLOUD at around 12/1.
Kevin Ryan’s inmate wasn’t suited by the drop back to six furlongs in a furiously run Wokingham Stakes and has a better record over this specialist trip. Four-year-olds have won seven of the last 10 renewals and from his draw in 10 jockey Amy Ryan will have a choice on which route to take.
Eton Forever finally justified connection’s faith in his ability when winning the Buckingham Palace at Royal Ascot, but he has a huge task off top weight. Bonnie Brae is an admirable mare but I’m not sure it will be quite soft enough for her, so Highland Colori, at the bottom of the weights, could be the danger for Andrew Balding.
You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my racing views.
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