Legacies of Galileo and Montjeu fuel this year's King George field
James Thomas runs the rule over the breeding of six Group 1 contenders
The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes has long since been an important proving ground for those wishing to advertise their credentials before heading to stud.
It is not news that far more stallions fail than succeed, so naturally the King George's record contains more than a few duds. But there have been some notable success stories along the way from those who claimed the 12 furlong Group 1 prize before going on to leave their mark on the breed.
From further back in the annals of history are names such as 1956 winner Ribot, Tesio's masterpiece whose influence still endures through the exploits of Danehill, while Nijinsky, who struck 1970, left 155 stakes winners from his time at stud.
Although Nijinsky's influence in current day pedigrees is increasingly limited, he remains the only stallion to have sired the winner of the Derby and the Kentucky equivalent in the same year, with Shahrastani and Ferdinand claiming Classic laurels in 1986.
In more recent times it has been left to Galileo, who died earlier in July at the age of 23, and his former studmate Montjeu to carry the flame for the King George, and the pair could yet enhance their legacies further in this year's renewal.
Admittedly the horse with the greater chance of having an impact on Saturday's race is Galileo, with his influence felt throughout the field. The son of Sadler's Wells has sired 92 Group/Grade 1 winners, more than any other stallion in Turf history, and among those are two past winners of the contest, namely Nathaniel (2011) and Highland Reel (2016).
Nathaniel later found fame as the sire of Enable, who became the first horse to win three King Georges with victories in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
The top-class filly Love, already the winner of five Group 1s, and Irish Derby runner-up Lone Eagle, who is owned in partnership between Aquis Farm and his breeder Ballylinch Stud, will bid to give the late, great Galileo a hat-trick of victories in the race.
While Love highlights Galileo's ability to upgrade a pedigree, with her dam, the Pivotal mare Pikaboo, a five-race maiden with a peak Racing Post Rating of 58, Lone Eagle hails from a pedigree much more befitting a major talent.
His dam, the stakes-winning Modernstone, who cost Ballylinch 1,000,000gns back in 2017 when carrying Lone Eagle in utero, is out of Post Modern, a sister to Reams Of Verse, winner of the Fillies' Mile and the Oaks, and a half-sister to Coral-Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes hero Elmaamul.
Another sibling is Midsummer, dam of the six-time Group 1 winner Midday, while further back it is the family of Zafonic and Group 1-winning sprinters Prohibit and Regal Parade. Modernstone is also a daughter of Duke Of Marmalade, meaning Lone Eagle has a King George winner on both sides of his pedigree.
Two of Galileo's stallion sons have runners in this year's race, most notably Frankel, sire of Adayar, who will bid to become the first horse since Galileo some 20 years ago to follow Derby triumph with victory in the King George.
The Godolphin homebred is out of Anna Salai, a Group 3-winning daughter of Dubawi who was beaten just a head by Bethrah in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Although Dubawi did not contest the King George himself, with his best efforts coming over a mile in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and Prix Jacques le Marois, he has sired a winner of the race in Postponed, while he is also the grandsire of 2018 scorer Poet's Word, who is by Poet's Voice.
The clash between Adayar, Love and Lone Eagle is something of a microcosm of the duel that is unfolding at the head of the British and Irish sires' table, as Frankel currently leads Galileo by around £300,000 in progeny earnings.
Given the King George pays £496,212.50 to the winner, compared to £188,125 for finishing runner-up and £94,150 for third, the outcome to Saturday's race could just have a major bearing on who is crowned champion at the end of the year.
The other son of Galileo to field a runner is Australia, sire of outsider Broome. Should the five-year-old entire, who is owned by Masaaki Matsushima and the Coolmore partners and who was last seen winning the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, spring a surprise he would cap a fine week for Croom House Stud's broodmare Sweepstake, as the daughter of Acclamation was also responsible for Thursday's Tyros Stakes scorer, and Broome's full-brother, Point Lonsdale.
The brilliant Montjeu, who sauntered to King George glory in 2000 under a motionless Mick Kinane and sired the winner six years later with Hurricane Run, is represented in this year's line-up by Wonderful Tonight, who is out of his daughter Salvation.
The family has a real affinity for Montjeu blood, as Salvation's own dam is a half-sister to Fickle, who in turn bred Tarfah, dam of Montjeu's four-time Group 1-winning son Camelot. Wonderful Tonight is one of five Group 1 winners by leading French stallion Le Havre.
The only runner in this year's line-up not directly descended from a King George winner is Mishriff.
Prince Faisal's homebred, a first-crop son of Make Believe, has already done plenty to cement his place at stud with victories in the Prix du Jockey Club and Sheema Classic, while he hails from one of the most active stallion-producing families in the book as his third dam is Rafha, whose influence has been extended through her high-performing sire sons Invincible Spirit and Kodiac.
The odds may be stacked against this year's King George containing the next Ribot or Galileo, not least with two fillies holding leading claims.
However, there are sound credentials among the colts in the line-up, so it will be fascinating to see if any of the four can follow in the footsteps of past greats.
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