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Crystal Ocean new King George favourite after giving Stoute 11th Hardwicke

Crystal Ocean (left) wins the Hardwicke Stakes with any amount in hand
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Sir Michael Stoute believes it is time to be brave with Crystal Ocean and pitch him back into the highest company in the King George with a return to Ascot next month.

The evidence of a textbook success at odds of 4-7, the shortest-priced winner of this year’s Royal Ascot, suggests the son of Sea The Stars is ready for the challenge.

Crystal Ocean was trimmed to between 2-1 and 11-4 favourite (from around 5-1) for the King George after a contest that never really was.

A delighted Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, owner of Crystal Ocean, after victory in the Hardwicke

Stoute’s 79th Royal Ascot winner, and the fourth of a memorable week, went perfectly to plan, Ryan Moore sitting off the lead set by Idaho, last year’s winner, moving to challenge off the home bend and asserting up the straight for an untroubled two-and-a-half-length success.

Stoute, winning his 11th Hardwicke Stakes and eighth in the last 13 years, said: “It was straightforward. He’s so uncomplicated. You can do what you like with him as he’s a relaxed horse.”

Given the option of staying in Group 2 company or racing in a Group 1 for the first time since the St Leger, the trainer with more wins than anyone else at the royal meeting said: “I think we’ll get brave. The King George is likely. We’ll get home and think about it.”


SIR MICHAEL STOUTE'S HARDWICKE HEROES

2018 Crystal Ocean ridden by Ryan Moore, SP 4-7f
2016 Dartmouth Olivier Peslier 10-1
2015 Snow Sky Pat Smullen 12-1
2014 Telescope Ryan Moore 7-4f
2012 Sea Moon Ryan Moore 3-1f
2010 Harbinger Ryan Moore 8-11f
2007 Maraahel Richard Hills 100-30
2006 Maraahel Richard Hills 9-2
1992 Rock Hopper Pat Eddery 8-15f
1991 Rock Hopper Pat Eddery 5-6f
1986 Dihistan Pat Eddery 9-2


Crystal Ocean finished second in the St Leger last September but will not be tackling a mile and six furlongs again.

Stoute said: “The Leger was a one-off, like Conduit. The owner-breeder wanted to have a crack at the Leger and it was worth it, but he wouldn’t be going above a mile and a half again.”

Asked if his 79th Royal Ascot winner was as enjoyable as his first, 41 years ago, he said: “I hope I’m not losing it.”

He added: “They’re hard to split, but this compares very favourably to my other Royal Ascots.”

Miles of smiles: jockey Ryan Moore and trainer Sir Michael Stoute enjoy Crystal Ocean's success

Crystal Ocean’s victory drew Moore level with Frankie Dettori on four winners at the meeting but, unlike his rival, there was no showmanship in the winner's enclosure, just a touch of his yellow cap in acknowledgement of the applause and a quiet debrief with Stoute before a self-contained walk back to the weighing room, a 52nd career Royal Ascot success secured.

Apart from the unusual sight of Moore riding against the Ballydoyle pair of Idaho and Cliffs Of Moher, the most eye-catching aspect beyond the professionalism of the winner was Red Verdon’s presence in second at 33-1.

Trainer Ed Dunlop said: “The Spring Carnival [in Australia] was the whole reason behind today.

"He'll go to the Caulfield Cup and then the Melbourne Cup, provided he's fit and well. I wasn’t surprised to see him run well – he had very good form as a three-year-old.”    

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He's uncomplicated, straightforward and relaxed. The King George is more likely than the Eclipse
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