Ascot plays host to one of the most prestigious races of the season at the end the weekend with the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes taking place over 12f. A small but select field looks set to go to post and despite the high profile omission of St Nicholas Abbey, it looks to be a competitive event.
KING GEORGE VI AND QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES (British Champion Series) (Group 1) – 3.50 Ascot Saturday 27th July
St Nicholas Abbey had headed the market in the lead up to the race but unfortunately suffered a career ending injury on the gallops. His defection from the race has left the filed now headed by the gelded Cirrus Des Aigles. A top class horse with three Group 1 wins to his name, he narrowly defeated St Nichols Abbey in the Dubai Sheema Classic in 2012 before he gave Frankel a good race in the Champion Stakes at this track. He ran a little disappointingly on his seasonal reappearance however and it is likely that he shows his best form over 10f. It would be disappointing if he were to not improve for that initial outing of the season but he was certainly below par given his excellent record when running fresh. Anywhere near his best and he ought to win but at the price we will leave him alone on the back of his last run; with plenty of bookmakers offers based around him winning it is worth looking elsewhere for some value.
The winner of this race was trained in Germany 12 months ago in this year they also provide a viable contender in the shape of Novellist. He was the winner of the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last time out beating the like of Dunaden and Cirrus Des Aigles. He is likely to encounter the quickest conditions of his career in this race which has to be of some concern given most of his form has come on softer ground. He does stay this trip well however and is relatively lightly raced with just 9 career starts (7 wins) under his belt. Ryan Moore rode him last time out but he is riding for Michael Stoute in this race so Jonny Murtagh takes over in the saddle which is certainly not a negative. He will be hoping for some rain which is forecast and if that does arrive his chance will improve.
Closer to home Irish Derby victor Trading Leather will take his chance for Jim Bolger. In the shadow of stable-mate Dawn Approach for most of his career he announced himself as a Group 1 horse with a relatively comfortable success at the Curragh last time out, seemingly relishing the step up in trip. A consistent sort, this will be much his toughest test to date against the older horses but he looks progressive and deserves to take his chance.
EKTIHAAM has shown a much improved level of form this year. He chased home subsequent three-time Group 1 winner Al Kazeem at the start of the season before bolting up in a Listed contest over this course and distance. He looked to be going well in the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting on his most recent start before he unfortunately slipped on the bend; Thomas Chippendale (whom Ektihaam had beaten by 6L on his previous start) went on to win the race. He has suffered a small setback since then which caused him to miss the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes but he could turn up in this race for which he could be slightly overpriced. It is impossible to know whether he would have won the Hardwicke Stakes but he would surely be a shorter price for this if he had run well that day. He acts at the track and there is every chance looking at the possible runners that he may get an easy lead which would suit him; Universal is likely to want to lead too however when they both ran in the Hardwicke it was Ektihaam who got to the front. Looks to have a solid each-way chance if all is well after his mishap.
Of the rest Hillstar has been supplemented into the race at a cost of £75,000 by his connections on the back of his Royal Ascot win. He has disappointed a few times before that race but surged to victory over this course and distance, staying on well late on. The form of that race leaves him with something to find in this company but they would not supplement him for no reason and he could easily take another step forward. Very Nice Name ran a huge race when last season in Dubai to finish 3L adrift of St Nicholas Abbey despite being a 66/1 chance. His form back home in France is not quite as inspiring and the majority of form gives him work to do in this company. Not seen since March and hard to tell if she is good enough back in Europe against these rivals so probably best left alone. Red Cadeaux won the Hong Kong Vase over this trip last season but often finds life tough in this company, probably preferring a slightly sterner test of stamina. Struggled in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes last time out and whilst the extra 2f will help him he faces another stiff task here.
EKTIHAAM @ 8/1 with Ladbrokes
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