The King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot is many people’s idea of the highlight of the British Flat season as it brings together the best of all equine ages and genders (3.35pm Saturday live on ITV).
John Gosden’s Epsom and Irish Oaks winning filly Enable is the clear favourite at 5/4 and merits plenty of respect but her price seems rather ungenerous as this is her first time taking on those colts and older rivals.
Enable is undoubtedly the best filly of her generation, winning very easily by five lengths at both Epsom and the Curragh but she was not facing opposition of anything like this quality. At Epsom some of the fillies were unsettled by the thunder and lightning before the race, one of them bolted and failed to line up at all. Enable certainly proved her bravery by thrusting clear in the torrential rain that arrived mid-race but others recoiled from it, making that form less solid than a contest run in more conventional conditions.
This will also be her first start on ground more testing than good. Frankie Dettori has partnered her three times and thinks she stays really well, she will need to here. She bids to emulate her sire, Nathaniel, who won this race as a three-year-old and stands a decent chance of doing so but 5/4 suggests there are no question marks at all.
Aidan O’Brien’s all-conquering Highland Reel is the current titleholder and is a worthy joint second favourite at as big as 5/1 with a couple of the big sports betting sites. He also comes into the race on the back of two top class wins. He took the Coronation Cup at Epsom run over this distance of a mile and half in early June, beating Charlie Appleby’s Frontiersman nearly two lengths having already battled hard to repel his stablemate Hawkbill.
On that day all the Ballydoyle runners were compromised by travel problems, arriving at the course very late after spending ages in transit. Highland Reel is a sweaty stress head at the best of times, he had every excuse to lose but still got the job done.
This five-year-old son of Galileo was last seen taking the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating Roger Charlton’s Decorated Knight just over a length. Usually a front runner, Highland Reel had to yield to Godolphin’s pacemaker Scottish but once again he succeeded. Ground slower than good is not ideal for this colt but he was only beaten a head by Dartmouth in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot last year when ‘good to soft’ looked a fairly conservative description of the conditions. Highland Reel is the choice of Ryan Moore and has to be taken very seriously.
Highland Reel’s four-year-old full brother Idaho (10/1) is another potential contender for Ballydoyle. He was beaten seven lengths by Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup but O’Brien thought that the travel issues had upset him. Idaho was back on form in his latest run, beating Roger Varian’s Barsanti half a length to win the Hardwicke.
Like his brother, Idaho is highly strung and talented but is much less reliable. He started as the odds-on favourite in the St Leger and stumbled badly, unseating Seamie Heffernan. Idaho is yet to score at this level but was only beaten half a length by Harzand in the Irish Derby on good to yielding. Ridden by Heffernan, he has each-way claims.
Gosden has a strong hand saddling the joint second favourite owned by Godolphin, Jack Hobbs (5/1). This five-year-old son of Halling shares a rating of 123 with Highland Reel but is much less consistent. He was last seen starting as the favourite in the Prince Of Wales but finished last, beaten five and a half lengths. Market confidence at Ascot was inspired by his previous run when he took the Dubai Sheema Classic in March wearing blinkers for the first time, beating O’Brien’s Seventh Heaven two lengths on yielding ground. The conditions predictably dulled Highland Reel’s talents, he finished last, beaten 12 lengths.
Jack Hobbs is a class act, he finished second to Golden Horn in the Derby but he has not looked the same horse since he pulled up in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket in April last year. He seemed rather wobbly and a stress fracture was eventually discovered in his pelvis. The blinkers obviously worked well at Meydan and he should enjoy give in the ground but his no show last time makes him unappealing. William Buick will partner him.
Gosden also saddles Maverick Wave (100/1) for Godolphin. This six-year-old is rated a lowly 102 and, ridden by the former jump jockey Graham Lee, is probably here purely to act as a pacemaker.
Godolphin also have the only three-year-old colt in the line-up Benbatl (20/1). This son of Dubawi was beaten just three and a half lengths in the Derby and went on to win the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating O’Brien’s Orderofthegarter half a length.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, this colt seems to be improving since acquiring a tongue tie at Epsom. It was applied after he was a beaten favourite in the Dante, finishing as runner-up beaten three quarters of a length by Mark Johnston’s very useful Permian. Benbatl will need to step up to feature in this company but place money or better will be hoped for by his ambitious jockey, Oisin Murphy.
A more obvious contender is Sir Michael Stoute’s Coral-Eclipse winner Ulysses (8/1). He is a typical beneficiary of his trainer’s patient approach and is still improving as a four-year-old but he seems to be at his best on quick ground.
Ulysses’ only disappointing run was in the Derby when he was beaten over 20 lengths on good to soft. Another son of Galileo, Ulysses is rated 2lb lower than Highland Reel who has beaten him twice but, as a hold-up horse, the race could be run to suit him. If the ground is good on the day and he continues his seemingly relentless improvement then he could be a major player.
Our Preview’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes Betting Tip
The King George and Queen Elizabeth 5/4 favourite Enable is an admirable filly but this is quite a big ask for her at a fairly small price.
- This preview’s King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting tip has to be the very consistent multiple Grade 1 winner HIGHLAND REEL who manages to deliver even when he has reasons to lose. His will to win is second to none and he has the assistance of the inestimable Ryan Moore to aid his cause. Back him each-way at a best price of 5/1 with Paddy Power.