The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting market has been radically revised since Roger Varian’s hot favourite, Postponed, was scratched from the highlight of Saturday’s card at Ascot (4.30pm, live on Channel 4).
Postponed was generally available at 1/2 to defend his King George title until he was found to be suffering from a respiratory infection on Wednesday. He looked a good thing and his absence has certainly opened up this preview’s search for a betting tip. The Queen’s Dartmouth subsequently shortened from 5/1 to become the 5/2 joint-favourite. He had been supplemented at the five day stage.
Dartmouth is unbeaten this season and was last seen narrowly beating Highland Reel in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot over this distance of a mile and a half, giving his trainer Sir Michael Stoute (pictured) his 75th win at the meeting.
This four-year-old has certainly inherited his sire Dubawi’s fighting spirit and battled hard to win the Hardwicke under Olivier Peslier. The task was made easier by the disappointing run of his more fancied stablemate, Exosphere and it was serendipitous that Seamie Heffernan dropped his whip on Highland Reel over a furlong out.
Dartmouth’s other two starts this term were in Group 3 contests. He started as the favourite in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester in May and made all, beating Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave a neck. In April he won comfortably at Chelmsford over a furlong further. This will be his first experience of Group 1 company but the absence of Postponed makes this a much less demanding prospect. Peslier will partner him again.
Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel (5/2) shares a rating of 119 with the favourite. This four-year-old son of Galileo got himself into a sweat before the Hardwicke, was rather keen early and was nudged by Dartmouth in the closing stages provoking a stewards’ inquiry. After all that he was only beaten a head under a hands and heels ride. The ground was wrong for him too. All his wins have been on good or faster ground.
Unlike the favourite Highland Reel has already scored in Group 1 company. He beat Flintshire, a seasoned top class performer, a length and a half in the Hong Kong Vase over this distance in December. Highland Reel was arguably at his most impressive on firm ground when forging five lengths clear of the field in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park over a slightly shorter trip in August.
Highland Reel has been beaten in his three runs this term but it was no disgrace to finish four lengths behind Postponed in the Sheema Classic in March. In April he was unlucky to encounter yielding ground at Sha Tin and failed to shine. His form suggests that he should enjoy conditions and, if undamaged by his last effort, he has every chance here. Ryan Moore has chosen to partner him.
His stablemate Sir Isaac Newton (16/1) is trying this distance for the first time but, as a son of Galileo, has every chance of getting it. He won the listed Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot under Moore and went on to take a Group 3 at the Curragh at the end of June, beating Ger Lyons’ Chemical Charge three-quarters of a length on yielding ground.
This four-year-old is rated 10lb below the market leaders but Ballydoyle second strings have been known to spring surprises, Seventh Heaven in the Irish Oaks immediately comes to mind. If Sir Isaac Newton does not need to have juice in the ground to show his best then he could well outperform his price. Seamie Heffernan will be gripping his whip tightly.
The other four-year-old in the line-up is the French challenger, Erupt (5/1). Trained by Francis Graffard this son of Dubawi looked a potential star when winning his first four starts in 2015, including the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris over this distance. He has not won since but was beaten less than four lengths by Golden Horn in the Arc and was only two lengths behind the winner of the Japan Cup in November.
Owned and bred by the Niarchos family, Erupt was completely tailed off in the mud in the Prix d’Ispahan on his reappearance in May this year. He was next seen finishing a very respectable second in early July in a Group 1 over this trip in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, beaten just over a length by Silverwave. That was on decent ground. In the past connections have claimed that give would help him but that does not look to be the case if the form book is any indicator. Erupt is rated just 3lb lower than the best here and has realistic claims.
Luca Cumani’s stable is in great form but Second Step (33/1) has plenty to prove after his three starts this season. He was fancied to run well in the Group 1 Princess of Wales Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago but was beaten seven lengths by Big Orange, finishing fifth. Frankie Dettori, unlike some of his rivals, had the sense to keep the front running winner in his sights but Second Step was tapped for toe and weakened when it mattered.
In his previous run this five-year-old gelding was held up by Jamie Spencer in the Queen Elizabeth Coronation Cup at Epsom in June but was beaten seven lengths by Postponed. Second Step’s rating has recently dropped 7lb to 111 and Cumani acknowledges that he ‘hasn’t got the best chance’ on form. It is apparently his owner who is keen to run him. Spencer once again partners him.
Western Hymn (25/1) is another five-year-old with questions to answer. He suffered a life-threatening bout of colic last year but after five runs this term he seems to be going backwards rather than improving. Trained by John Gosden, he is usually ridden by Dettori who thought that he needed his first run in April when he was second to My Dream Boat and then believed that Chester did not suit him when he was beaten there by Cannock Chase in May. The ground was considered too quick when he was runner-up to Time Test next time.
Most recently hold-up tactics were tried in the Coral-Eclipse but Western Hymn looked uncomfortable, holding his head to one side, and ran no race at all. Rab Havlin has ridden him once before, successfully in his only start as a juvenile, and is reunited with him for his first attempt at this trip. The partnership seem unlikely to retain their unbeaten record.
Dettori will be riding Gosden’s Wings Of Desire (4/1), the only three-year-old in the line-up and sole beneficiary of a weight for age allowance of 12lb. This striking chestnut colt was last seen finishing fourth in the Derby, beaten nearly eight lengths by Harzand. Gosden has always said that good ground is essential for him even though his breeding suggests otherwise as he is by Pivotal. Wings Of Desire did not get it at Epsom.
In his previous start he won the Dante at York, beating Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville a neck on quick ground. Deauville needs a sound surface too and was beaten over 20 lengths at Epsom but has since franked the Dante form by winning the Belmont Derby.
Wings Of Desire won over this distance on his second start at Wolverhampton after finishing third in a Newmarket maiden on good to soft first time out over a mile and a quarter. Owned and bred by Lady Bamford, it is only three months since he made his racecourse debut so he could well be the most progressive type in the race. He is rated only 6lb below the best here and is shouldering nearly a stone less than them. He should enjoy conditions and has to have every chance of providing Gosden with his third three-year-old winner of this race.
Our Preview’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Betting Tip Verdict
This renewal has become a fairly open affair since the loss of Postponed. Dartmouth (5/2) would be a popular winner but he is not a convincing favourite. Fortune definitely favoured him in the Hardwicke giving Highland Reel (5/2) solid hopes of reversing the placings.
- Erupt (5/1) has claims too but our preview’s betting tip has to be WINGS OF DESIRE. Gosden knows how to win this race with three-year-olds and punters seem to have forgotten that conditions were against this colt in the Derby. He comes into the race fresher than most and has the assistance of Dettori, who can be relied upon to give him every chance of fulfilling his potential at current best betting odds of 4/1 with Betfred or Stan James. Although this is only a seven-runner affair, paying 1/4 odds the first two places, we would not put you off making that an each-way bet.
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.