The King George and Queen Elizabeth stakes is the most highly respected middle distance Group 1 contest for horses of all ages (3.50pm Saturday, Ascot). This year it looks to be a much more open contest over a mile and a half than the betting market suggests.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Telescope is the market leader at 9/4. He bolted up in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, leaving his stablemate Hillstar seven lengths in his wake. This four-year-old son of Galileo is a force to be reckoned with on good to firm going and has never finished out of the first two on it. He ended last season by taking the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York over this distance.
Telescope has been beaten twice this year by Lady Cecil’s Noble Mission on a slower surface over a mile and a quarter, most recently in May at Chester by two and a quarter lengths. There is no chance that he will be inconvenienced by cut in the ground here but this will be his first Group 1 encounter. Sir Michael has a superb record in this race but it is difficult to get excited about Telescope at his current price.
Connections have stumped up the £75,000 required to supplement Eagle Top (6/1) suggesting a degree of confidence. He is the highest rated three-year-old of the trio to line up and comes into the race on the back of an eye-catching win at Royal Ascot. This son of Pivotal was the surprise 12/1 winner of the Group 2 King Edward Stakes. He beat Aidan O’Brien’s 6/5 favourite, Adelaide, by over three lengths.
Eagle Top had been a disappointing favourite in his previous run – only finishing fourth in a handicap at Leicester in April. His trainer John Gosden was far from shocked by the turnaround in his fortunes. He revealed that his blood was all wrong after his run at Leicester, suggesting that the horse had just contracted an infection. This is only his fourth start but he has proved his credentials over course and distance. Gosden took this race with the three-year-old Nathaniel in 2011. Eagle Top will benefit from the 12lb weight for age allowance and has to be one for the shortlist.
His stablemate Romsdal (25/1) also lines up. He was last seen finishing third in the Derby, some four lengths behind Aidan O’Brien’s Australia. He previously lost out by a nose to O’Brien’s Orchestra in the Chester Vase. He is rated just 3lb lower than Eagle Top and will be ridden by Richard Hughes who also partnered him in the Derby.
As a son of Halling he can be expected to perform on quick ground. His price looks generous, presumably because Gosden’s stable jockey William Buick (pictured) has chosen to take his chances on Eagle Top. Buick picked the wrong horse in the Derby and it is not impossible that he has done so again.
Gosden also saddles the Oaks winner and the worthy 11/4 second favourite, Taghrooda. Despite being hampered, she beat Dermot Weld’s Tarfasha in impressive style by nearly four lengths. This daughter of Sea The Stars is unbeaten in her three starts and has proved that this distance holds no fears for her nor does good to firm ground.
This will be the first time that she takes on colts but Taghrooda could well emulate Danedream and put another win on the board for fillies. Owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, she is the choice of his first jockey, Paul Hanagan.
Maktoum’s other runner, Mukhadram (12/1) commands respect despite Hanagan’s defection. This ultra-consistent five-year-old son of Shamardal finally gained his first Group 1 win last time out, in the Eclipse at Sandown for William Haggas. Hanagan gave him a typically positive ride and his decision to keep up with the pace and kick for home two furlongs out looked to prove decisive. Mukhadram beat Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather by two lengths but Mark Johnston’s 102 rated pacemaker Somewhat, a 100/1 shot, finished less than a length behind him in third. Much higher rated horses who were held up off the pace found themselves with too much to do in the closing stages.
If you think that that win was purely down to Hanagan’s tactics, don’t forget that Mukhadram missed out by only a neck to Roger Charlton’s Al Kazeem in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last year. He also came second in a Group 1 on Tapeta in Dubai in March. This will be his first attempt beyond a mile and a quarter but he has never looked like emptying on the run in and may find the additional two furlongs work to his advantage.
No five-year-old has succeeded in this race since Saeed bin Suroor’s Daylami in 1999 but Mukhadram looks an interesting each-way prospect at his current price. Dane O’Neill takes the ride for the first time.
The Irish challenge is led by Aidan O’Brien’s 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Magician (11/2). This four-year-old son of Galileo is the highest rated horse to line up but has found one too good in his last two starts. Gosden’s The Fugue outpaced him in record-breaking time in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating him by nearly two lengths.
In his previous run in The Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May he was unable to catch Noble Mission but was closing with every stride. He finished a length and a quarter behind him – and that’s a length closer than Telescope got to Noble Mission at Chester in May. Both Magician’s latest runs were over a mile and a quarter and it is very possible that the soft ground at the Curragh did not play to his strengths. His form suggests that a fast surface over this distance is best for him. He stands a decent chance of providing his trainer with a fourth win in this race.
Another Irish hope is Jim Bolger’s Irish Derby winner, Trading Leather (14/1). He has not won since but was last seen finishing behind Mukhadram at Royal Ascot. In his only other run this season this four-year-old son of Teofilo was a disappointing odds-on favourite in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket in May. He did himself no favours by pulling hard and could only finish third.
Bolger also sends out Leitir Mor (150/1) presumably to act as pacemaker and spare his son-in-law Kevin Manning an ugly battle like the one he had with Dawn Approach in the 2013 Epsom Derby. Trading Leather came second to Novellist in this race last year and should run well again if Manning gets him settled but others have stronger claims.
King George Preview Betting Tips
This is definitely not the two horse race suggested by the betting market. The favourite Telescope seems to be suffering from the Sir Michael Stoute factor – offering very poor value. Taghrooda is a more attractive prospect but she is ungenerously priced for a first attempt against colts and older horses.
Gosden’s Romsdal is a very tempting each-way proposition at 25/1 but EAGLE TOP has to be our pick. He looks very progressive and posted an almost identical time to the favourite when carrying only a pound less at Royal Ascot. The 12lb advantage here makes him very appealing at 6/1 with Ladbrokes and Paddy Power.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.