Nathaniel lands King George as tragedy strikes
Report: Ascot, Saturday
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by Betfair) (Group 1) 1m 4f, 3yo+
NATHANIEL became the first three-year-old since 2003 to win the King George as he edged out Workforce in an eventful running of the race that was marred by a tragic accident that cost Rewilding his life.
The King Edward VII Stakes winner was added to the star-studded field at the start of the week at a cost of £75,000 and, although he was giving John Gosden and William Buick a first winner in the race, the reception was very subdued with Rewilding having to be put down after breaking his near-fore leg in front of the stands.
Frankie Dettori, rider of Rewilding, had to be helped from the track after he was thrown to the ground in the incident and although he was taken back to the weighing room in an ambulance, he escaped relatively unscathed but was stood down for the rest of the day.
Nathaniel, who finished just ahead behind subsequent Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach at Chester in May, found himself a reluctant leader under Buick in the very early stages of the race after Ahmed Ajtebi on the widely perceived pacemaker Debussy took a pull and raced out wide.
Buick, however, seemed as reluctant as Nathaniel to be towing them along and forced the Godolphin second string to take it up again over a mile from home.
The winner, who was sent off an 11-2 chance, was sat behind Debussy with St Nicholas Abbey, Workforce and Rewilding held up behind him all the way until the runners straightened up and the race really moved up a gear.
At that point, Nathaniel was the first to kick for home and it looked as if he was going to be challenged all the way to the line by the closing pack. However, Rewilding met with an untimely demise that left the Ascot crowd stunned and perhaps unaware of the dramatic conclusion to the race that saw the front two head to the left, an action that may have cost Workforce his chance.
Buick, who was brought up in Norway had already given an emotional interview to the BBC about the desperate events in the country where he was brought up and his post-race interview summed up the feelings of many at the track.
"First of all I'd like to say how sorry I am for Rewilding and his connections, it's never nice to see that happen," he said.
Of the events in the early part of the race, Buick, who described the result as "a dream come true" said: "My fella, he jumped in the front, Ahmed Ajtebi's obviously didn't want to make the running. I let my horse stride along. It wasn't really ideal. I was happy when I got a lead off Ajtebi and took it up turning in.
"This horse is getting better and better. Today he showed how good he is. I always knew he was a very good horse but I didn't realise he was going to be this good so soon."
About the climax of the race,Buick added: "I could see Workforce out of the corner of my eye. You've got to have a lot of respect for a horse like Workforce but Nathaniel was never stopping and galloped all the way to the line."
Nathaniel is now as short as 5-1 with Betfred for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe after his two and three-quarter length win and Gosden said that connections would now look at adding him to the Longchamp race for another tilt at Workforce.
"He's won well, he loves the course," he said. "We got lucky with the wet weather coming and if we hadn't got the ground we wouldn't have been here.
"Workforce set the standard, he is a Derby and Arc winner, and hopefully with a bit of luck we can take them on again at Longchamp in October. We will have to supplement again as he'd not won a maiden when the entries closed."
Ryan Moore felt that Workforce may have been struck into on the bend and Sir Michael Stoute confirmed afterwards that he had a cut on his leg.
St Nicholas Abbey, who had been friendless in the market finished back in third and his trainer Aidan O'Brien said: "He's run a lovely race, they've gone a steady pace but we're making no excuses."