King George Preview & Tips: Go Hell For Leather

Last updated July 27th, 2013

jim bolger
Bolger: Can land Ascot’s King George

The prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes has attracted the highest rated horse in the world (3.50pm, Ascot, Saturday). Corine Barande-Barbe’s Cirrus Des Aigles is rated nearly a stone better than his closest rival in this field of eight. He has understandably been the clear favourite (best priced at 7/4) since news of St Nicholas Abbey’s career-ending injury broke.

If you are dubious about ratings, Cirrus Des Aigles must merit some respect for getting closer to Frankel than any other horse last year. He finished within two lengths of him in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, albeit on unsuitably soft ground for Frankel. But this son of Even Top is now a seven-year-old and was a well beaten favourite in his only run this season. He could only finish fifth in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, four and a half lengths behind Novellist in June on soft.

Did he need the run?  Possibly, but we still have to oppose him. Few seven-year-olds have lined up for this race and none has been successful. Older horses have an appalling record. Only one six-year-old has ever won it.

The other seven-year-old to line up is Ed Dunlop’s globe- trotting son of Cadeaux Genereux, Red Cadeaux, the 33/1 outsider of the field. He was uninspiring at Royal Ascot, finishing with only two horses behind him in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. It was a similar story in his previous run at Kranji, but both races were over a mile and two furlongs. His most recent win, in December, was over a mile and a half in the Hong Kong Vase on good ground. If the ground is no faster than good on the day, he could well run into a place.

Four-year-olds have fared best recently. Since the turn of the century, they have an impressive strike rate of over 80%. The only other winners in that timeframe (all three of them) have been three-year-olds, John Gosden’s Nathaniel, John Oxx’s Alamshar and Aidan O’Brien’s now legendary Galileo.

Mark Johnston’s Universal (16/1) is an interesting four-year-old.  This resilient son of Dubawi has had a very busy season. He started with four lacklustre runs in handicaps in Dubai but found his feet on his return to the UK. He came third by three and a half lengths to the late Henry Cecil’s ill-fated Thomas Chippendale in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot. Most recently Universal proved a worthy favourite in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket on 11th July. He made all and beat Saeed bin Suroor’s Ahzeemah by two and a half lengths. He is a thoroughly likeable, consistent horse who has risen substantially in the handicapper’s estimations since his return to the UK but he looks to have a bit to find to feature here.

Another four-year-old is Roger Varian’s Ektihaam (8/1). He has not been seen on a racecourse since he slipped up when starting as the 9/4 favourite in the Hardwicke. In his previous run over course and distance in the listed Buckhounds Stakes in May he beat Thomas Chippendale by six lengths. This son of Invincible Spirit has been found wanting in his previous two tilts in Group 1 company. It is very difficult to think positively about his chances when we know that Hamdan Al Maktoum’s retained jockey, Paul Hanagan, has relinquished the ride, preferring to partner Mukhadram, the clear favourite in the York Stakes.

The less fancied French raider, Very Nice Name (20/1) trained by Alban De Mieulle looks generously priced. This four-year-old son of Whipper put together a string of five wins in Qatar, including a local Group 1 over a mile and a half at the end of February.  A month later he came third in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, three and a half lengths behind St Nicholas Abbey. He looks to be an interesting each-way chance.

The most fancied four-year-old is Andreas Wohler’s German invader, Novellist 9/2.  In his latest run he staged a successful raid in France on 23 June to take the one and a half mile Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud under Ryan Moore. He beat Dunaden by one and a quarter lengths on soft ground. The evens favourite (and jolly for this race), Cirrus Des Aigles finished four and a half lengths behind him in fifth. As that form suggests, this son of Monsun is a class act. He has won seven of his nine starts, including another Group 1, albeit in Italy. Overseas travel is clearly not an issue for him but his only two defeats have been on good ground. His form suggests that he is at his best with some give in the surface which has to cast doubt over his chances here.

Sir Michael Stoute has supplemented (at a cost of £75,000) the three-year-old Hillstar (7/1) in a bid to gain his sixth victory in this race. Hillstar was last seen at Royal Ascot winning the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes in impressive style. He beat Aidan O’Brien’s Battle Of Marengo (who was fourth in the Derby) by a length.

This son of Danehill Dancer had previously been a beaten favourite in handicaps over a mile and two furlongs. He seemed to relish the extra distance at Ascot and the last minute supplement suggests some confidence but he has a lot more improvement to find to feature here.

Jim Bolger’s Irish Derby winner, Trading Leather (9/2), is rated 7lb higher than Hillstar at 118. As a three-year-old, he will benefit from a 12lb allowance. That puts him within 1lb of the favourite’s rating of 131. He beat David Wachman’s Galileo Rock by nearly two lengths at the Curragh. Galileo Rock had come third in the Epsom Derby, one and a half lengths behind O’Brien’s Ruler Of The World and a short head in front of Battle Of Marengo. Ruler Of The World and the Burkes’ Libertarian disappointed at the Curragh, making the form of both races hard to assess. The Irish Derby was the more truly run race of the two and Bolger is bullish about his son of Teofilo, saying that he has come on again since his success. He has to have a major chance.

King George Betting Tip Conclusion

Looking at the statistics again, when the going has been good or faster, the longest priced winner in this race over the last 13 years was Alamshar at 13/2 in 2003. That suggests we can discount the longer priced runners. The favourite, Cirrus Des Aigles, looks too long in the tooth and short in the odds. Novellist is the right age but seems to be at his best on slower ground. Whilst both Red Cadeaux and Very Nice Name are tempting as each-way bets but are unlikely to win. TRADING LEATHER is proven on a sound surface and has to be our pick to win at 11/2 with Bet365, BetVictorCoral or William Hill.