The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (3.50pm, Ascot, Saturday) is one of the highlights of the British Flat season and traditionally features a major showdown between the Classic generation and the older horses over a mile and a half.
The withdrawal of ante post favourite St. Nicholas Abbey, who suffered a career ending injury at Ballydoyle on Tuesday, is a bitter disappointment for all concerned, but this year’s renewal still promises to be a fascinating and informative contest.
The Classic generation is represented by Trading Leather (5/1), winner of the Irish Derby at the Curragh, and Hillstar (8/1), winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Form lines involving Ruler Of The World, Galileo Rock and Battle Of Marengo suggest that Trading Leather has the measure of Hillstar, but the fact that Sir Michael Stoute, who has won this race five times, has supplemented Hillstar at a cost of £75,000 speaks in his favour. However, even allowing for weight-for-age, both Trading Leather and Hillstar appear to have their work cut out to beat Cirrus Des Aigles on disadvantageous terms.
Cirrus Des Aigles (7/4), trained in Chantilly by Corine Barande-Barbe, was disappointing when only fifth, beaten 4½ lengths, behind Novellist in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, on soft going, on his reappearance last month. However, as a triple Group 1 winner and the highest rated horse in the race, by some way, he commands maximum respect. He was entitled to need the race at Saint-Cloud, his first since being beaten just 1¾ lengths by Frankel in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last October, and has apparently been impressive in his work since. He has yet to win on going faster than good, but Barande-Barbe is adamant that he doesn’t mind faster underfoot conditions.
Novellist (9/2), trained in Germany by Andreas Wohler, has won seven of his nine starts, including the Gran Premio del Jockey Club Italiano at San Siro last October and the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last month, and fully deserves his place in the field. However, he’ll do well to confirm the Saint-Cloud form with Cirrus Des Aigles and has shown his best form on soft going. The going at Ascot is currently good and, although some rain is forecast before the race, it’s unlikely to change significantly.
Ektihaam (8/1) was well beaten in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly last June, but has shown progressive form so far this season and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, despite having something to find with the principals. He was only beaten 1¼ lengths by subsequent triple Group 1 winner Al Kazeem in the Gordon Richards Stakes, over a mile and a quarter, at Sandown on his reappearance and reversed the form with the second, Thomas Chippendale, in the Buckhounds Stakes, over course and distance, the following month. He slipped up when in the lead in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and, provided he’s none the worse for that experience, he can make a bold bid from the front.
Very Nice Name (20/1) won three out of three at Qatar earlier in the year and was third, beaten 3½ lengths, behind St. Nicholas Abbey in the Sheema Classic at Meydan in March. That was a good effort on his first foray in Group 1 company, especially from a poor draw, and his trainer, Alban De Mieulle, believes he has improved since returning from Dubai. He missed an intended engagement at Chantilly last month because of the ground, so has an absence of 119 days to overcome, but is clearly high class and remains an interesting contender.
King George Betting Tips Advice
Cirrus Des Aigles, officially the highest rated horse in training, is the obvious one, but Cirrus Des Aigles, Ektihaam and Universal all like to lead or race prominently, so the pace should be strong and could set the race up for a hold-up performer. VERY NICE NAME fits the bill admirably and, although he has plenty to find with Cirrus Des Aigles on official ratings, it’s unlikely that we’ve seen the best of him yet. The progeny of Whipper usually progress well, so with just eight runners our betting advice is to back him at the very nice price of 20/1 each-way with Bet365 or Ladbrokes.
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