Get the inside track from the trainers of Enable and her rivals
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by Qipco) | Group 1 | 3yo+ | ITV/RUK
Enable bids to become the first Irish Oaks winner since Dahlia in 1973 to follow up in the all-aged showdown in which she also seeks to emulate her own sire Nathaniel, who was successful six years ago.
Trainer John Gosden, who also fields the three-year-old's senior stablemate Jack Hobbs, reports the dual Oaks winner to be "full of herself" at home despite the assignment coming only a fortnight after her latest demolition job at the Curragh.
Following Enable's win over Rhododendron at Epsom in June, owner Khalid Abdullah had discussed making the sporting move of taking on the seniors in this contest, but plans were postponed until after her follow-up bid in the Irish Oaks.
Given the style and margin of her five-and-a-half-length triumph at the Curragh, the plan was put into action again when she appeared to bounce out of the race, and Enable was given the green light after an impressive workout under Frankie Dettori earlier in the week.
Gosden has been here before with an Oaks winner after landing it three years ago with Taghrooda, who had fewer miles on the clock than Enable having missed the Curragh altogether that year. Enable carries 8st 7lb – a weight Dettori rarely does but has vowed to make – after the weight-for-age scale was adjusted this year, whereas Taghrooda had 8st 6lb.
Gosden said: "Prince Khalid is a very sporting owner who likes to see his horses race and decided he'd like to take on the older horses with Enable after it became apparent she'd come out of the Irish Oaks in good order.
"That's his way, as many owners would have retired Frankel at three but not the Prince, and Enable's presence adds plenty of interest into the mix."
Enable gets a stone off the older colts in the race, 11lb off Sixties Song and 3lb off the other three-year-old Benbatl.
Gosden added: "If it's good or good to soft ground mainly it should suit Enable, who has a beautiful action and she should be fine with the trip and track. We've done it before with Taghrooda but this year it looks a stronger race."
Jack Hobbs, owned by Godolphin and partners, will be hoping to fare better than last time at Ascot when he was last behind Highland Reel and Ulysses in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes.
Unlike that day, the Dubai Sheema Classic winner has his own pacemaker in Maverick Wave.
Gosden said: "It was one of the hottest days of the year at Ascot that day and the ground was lightning fast, which didn't suit him.
"He'll enjoy the rain they've had and goes back there in good shape. There was plenty of pace on there last time but we've stuck Maverick Wave in this time to help set an even gallop."
Enable pros On top of her game and the sky's the limit judged on her Irish Oaks win; any rain won't be a bother and she won't be stopping up the stiff finish
Enable cons Often traffic problems in this race and Dettori will do well to sit close to the pace
Jack Hobbs pros Rain in his favour and any further showers may expose the opposition over this trip
Jack Hobbs cons Although honourable in defeat many times, has never won at Ascot
Ballydoyle brothers prepare to do battle
Aidan O’Brien’s successful adventure with the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes began in 2001, when Galileo, his second runner in the race, got the better of Fantastic Light in a memorable battle.
Fast forward 16 years and the Ballydoyle trainer is seeking a fifth victory in the event with two sons of Galileo, the brothers Highland Reel and Idaho.
Both won at Royal Ascot last month, when Highland Reel achieved a sixth Group 1 victory by landing the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Idaho took the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, the race his year-old brother had won before landing the King George 12 months ago.
TOP EUROPEAN-TRAINED PRIZE-MONEY EARNERS (£)
Cirrus Des Aigles 6,179,490
Highland Reel 5,947,052
Gloria De Campeao 5,898,547
Red Cadeaux 4,998,408
St Nicholas Abbey 4,954,590
Ground conditions are likely to be a factor if Ballydoyle is to add another glittering prize to its haul of big-race successes this year, especially with Highland Reel, who has shown all his best form on good or faster ground – and is on the verge of becoming Europe's best money-earner of all time.
O’Brien said: “Highland Reel loves lively ground but if it's no worse than good to soft we’d be hopeful he'll handle it.
"He wouldn’t want it to come up very soft. He came out of Royal Ascot well and we’re happy with him.
“Idaho, too, likes good conditions, but he has form on easy ground having been placed in the Derby and the Irish Derby last year, when there was plenty of cut both times."
Idaho, who has yet to win at Group 1 level, is the mount of Seamie Heffernan who has ridden the four-year-old several times, while his brother is the mount of Ryan Moore.
Highland Reel pros Six-time winner at top level who is admirably tough and consistent, and return to mile and a half is a plus
Highland Reel cons Relishes fast ground and easier conditions would have to be a concern
Idaho pros Useful form last season, progressive this year, and handles ease in the ground
Idaho cons Yet to win a Group 1 and further improvement required
Ulysses bids to add to Eclipse success
Champion jockey Jim Crowley has just his second ever ride in the King George on Eclipse Stakes winner Ulysses, who must prove he is as effective over a mile and a half at the top level if he is to give trainer Sir Michael Stoute a record sixth triumph in the contest.
Before his career-best win over Barney Roy and reopposing Desert Encounter at Sandown, the four-year-old appeared to have no excuses when third to another of his King George foes Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, but connections are hopeful of an improved showing on a return to a mile and a half.
Crowley said of his mount, on whom he took over from the then-sidelined Frankie Dettori at Royal Ascot: "I'm hoping we'll be a lot closer to Highland Reel this time but we were behind him at Santa Anita and were behind him in the Prince of Wales's.
"It was the first time I’d ridden him at Ascot and I might have got there a little bit too soon against a horse like Highland Reel, who loves a fight. It was always in back of my mind [in the Eclipse] to hold on to him a bit longer.”
Crowley, who finished fourth on Madame Chang in the contest in 2015, added of the Niarchos family's hope: “Ulysses has won over a mile and a half and a mile and a quarter, and the way he travels he could probably win over a mile. He’s just a very high class horse.”
Stoute's most recent success came with runaway winner Harbinger in 2010, while his previous King George winners were Shergar (1981), Opera House (1993), Golan (2002) and Conduit (2009).
Stoute said: "We're very happy with Ulysses, and as far as the trip is concerned, he won a Gordon Stakes and ran a very solid race at Santa Anita in the Breeders' Cup Turf over a mile and a half.
"He's more settled this year, he relaxes better, so that will be to his advantage. I think the trip to Santa Anita did him a lot of good. I hoped it would, and it did."
On the opposition, Stoute said: "Highland Reel is a very admirable horse, and very tough to beat. But we go there hopeful. I hope there's not too much rain, I just don't want the ground too testing for him.”
Pros Comes here off the back of winning the Eclipse and maturing into a typically formidable Stoute older horse
Cons Ease in the ground over a mile and a half in this company could find him out
Rest of the field . . .
Saeed Bin Suroor knows what it takes to win a King George having conquered it five times previously, with Lammtarra, Swain (twice), Daylami and Doyen, and he bids to end a 13-year drought with last month's Royal Ascot winner Benbatl.
There is plenty made of the fact fellow three-year-old Enable is getting a stone from the senior runners, but Benbatl is getting 11lb. That will stand him in good stead, although there is no well worn path for winners of the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes to this all-aged test.
Jockey Oisin Murphy celebrated his first win at the royal meeting in style that day and could well be doing a flying dismount if his mount pulls this off.
Bin Suroor said: "Benbatl won well at Royal Ascot and is improving with time. His latest piece of work on Monday on the Limekilns went nicely and good to soft ground will be fine for him.
"He's coming up against some of the best horses, but we have been happy with his preparation and I'm looking forward to seeing how he gets on."
Sean Levey gets another opportunity at the highest level on Eclipse third Desert Encounter, who has three and a half lengths to find with rival Ulysses on their running at Sandown.
David Simcock's progressive sort was sent off 50-1 that day but belied those odds and could outrun his price again back at a track at which he won the Listed Buckhounds Stakes over this trip in May.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Abdulla Al Mansoori, said: "He ran a career best when third in the Eclipse and every drop of rain that falls will help him.
"He likes the track and the trip, and I think he has places chances despite his big price. It's a hot race this year but we like our horse and he's a progressive type."
My Dream Boat knows all about springing surprises at Ascot, having come from nowhere to land last year's Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at 16-1.
Since accounting for the classy Found that day, Paul and Clare Rooneys' five-year-old has not quite managed a follow up but has run some decent races in defeat, most recently when fourth to smart French colt Zarak in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud.
Trainer Clive Cox said: "My Dream Boat loves the big occasions at Ascot, as we've seen in the past, and I couldn't be happier with his condition heading back there.
"He ran a super race to be fourth in a Group 1 in France last time, which proves he stays a mile and a half, and we're looking forward to a very good renewal of the race."