Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The attention returns to Ascot for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Aiden O'Brien Horse Racing
With Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and the Grand National all behind us, it is easy to think that the most important events of the flat racing season are now gone for another year. However, there is one more major meeting looming on the horizon, and it is back at Ascot, where they are still collecting up the lost hats and discarded champagne bottles from last month’s festivities. 

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes takes place on 28 July, and is arguably the most prestigious race when it comes to truly showing a horse’s class. There are no age restrictions, so we will see the best of the best on display. And with a £600,000 prize pot on offer, nobody will want to stay away. 

What happened last year? 

Frankie Dettori has seemingly been unable to stay out of the limelight over the past 12 months, and was most recently seen enjoying a joke with Her Majesty, along with her newest granddaughter in law, at Royal Ascot. Arguably, his most recent purple patch can be traced right back to last year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, when he rode the John Gosden-trained 5/4 favourite Enable to victory under leaden skies. 

The three year old left older and more experienced horses in her wake, and became the first filly in history to complete the treble of the Epsom Oaks, the Irish Oaks and the King George. 

Sadly, Enable has not been able to take to the track since last October. Hopes that she would be fit to defend the St George have been dashed, following the news that she is still recovering from a knee injury. A representative of owner Khalid Abdullah said: “The advice that we have is, that given reasonable circumstances, she should be ready to run in August as a preparation for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe." 

The early focus is on Masar 

So with Enable out of action, where should you be looking if you are planning on staking a pound or two on this year’s race? A week ago, all the talk was around Charlie Appleby’s Derby winner Masar, but the trick to understanding betting odds is not to look at where they are, but where they are going. Masar was an early favourite at 6/1, but odds have now drifted to 15/2, and the horse has slipped down the rankings. 

In part, this is due to question marks over whether Masar’s Derby win was a one-off and the inability to further evaluate him in Ireland last week. Nevertheless, Charlie Appleby is in bullish mood and says the horse won well and has nothing to prove to anyone. Regardless, all eyes will be on the three year old at Sandown this week, where he is favourite to win the Coral Eclipse Stakes. Any slip ups, and you can be sure those odds will drift further. 

Crystal Ocean the new favourite 

As things stand, however, the bookmakers have named Crystal Ocean the new favourite for the King George. Sir Michael Stoute’s four year old took a comfortable victory in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, but at 4/7 odds, nobody expected anything else. Stoute feels the time is right for the horse to go to the next level, this will be Crystal Ocean’s first Group 1 race since coming second in last year’s St Leger

The bookmakers seem to agree and are offering odds of just 5/2. But with the likes of Cracksman, Poets Ward and Waldgeist also in the mix, all that could change over the coming weeks.

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