Tears of joy as Harbinger storms home in the King George
First published on Sunday, July 24, 2010
British Flat racing's ultimate hallmark of greatness put its seal on another champion yesterday when Harbinger delivered a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes victory that left Ascot both aghast and astonished.
Astonished at the stunning performance of Harbinger, who slammed a field containing two Derby winners and a three-time Arc runner-up by 11 lengths, posted the widest winning margin in the race's history, and shattered the mile-and-a-half track record.
Aghast at the surprise capitulation of Workforce, whose dismal run to finish second-last was as poor as his seven-length Investec Derby triumph had been impressive.
With a display no-one foresaw, Harbinger restored the wow factor to one of the sport's crown jewels with a complete rout of his top-class rivals that simply took the breath away.
In recessionary times the benefits of shared ownership, evident at Cheltenham in March when Imperial Commander claimed the Gold Cup, were again spectacularly showcased in victory for the 12 members of the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing syndicate, as too were the talents of Sir Michael Stoute, who emerged with a record-equalling fifth victory in the race and his second in a row.
With Workforce taking on Cape Blanco – the first clash between the winners of the Derby and Irish Derby for seven years in the King George – the Classic generation appeared to have a strong hand in Britain's weight-for-age middle-distance championship.
Yet they were mere bystanders as Harbinger, on whom Olivier Peslier was little more than a passenger, strode right away from them a furlong out to put clear daylight between himself and Cape Blanco, with Youmzain third, Daryakana fourth and Workforce fifth.
Peslier said: "When I gave him one smack with my whip I turned to see where the rest of the horses were and they were so far behind. Today Harbinger is the king."
Harry Herbert, Highclere's managing director, was in tears. "I've grown up with this race. I was lucky enough to be there when Dick Hern talked about the pacemakers for the Grundy-Bustino race. I saw Brigadier Gerard win. It's incredibly special and you know how lucky you are to be involved with a horse like this.
"It comes down to suddenly being dealt the cards that you've dreamed of all your life. Right now it's happened. For everyone out there, get into racehorse ownership, because I promise you it brings grown men down to their knees in tears. This is the best moment of my life bar Motivator winning the Derby."
With Confront in the race as pacemaker for Workforce, Stoute had three horses to follow but quickly identified how comfortably Harbinger was travelling and Workforce less so. Victory offered Stoute yet another opportunity to target the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, a race that has persistently eluded his grasp, but William Hill's price of even-money drew short shrift.
"I've gone very close to winning the Arc but even-money for Harbinger – what a joke," Stoute said. "It was some performance. He was always travelling so well and he just took off. It was a question of who had progressed more from his previous race. I didn't see Ribot, but this was highly impressive. It was strikingly good. Olivier was just cantering. He looked like the winner a long way out."
Herbert added: "It's the rate of his improvement that's so astonishing. There was an inkling of that when he worked last weekend under Olivier.
"Alison Begley from my office was up there to see it and she called me with a quiver in her voice saying she'd never seen a piece of work like it.
"Apparently the chat in the yard afterwards was all Harbinger. It wasn't that Workforce had worked badly, it was just the manner of Harbinger's work that day. What we've seen here today is that extraordinary improvement he's making."
Workforce was duelling with Cape Blanco to go past Confront approaching the straight, but made no further headway and was nearly 17 lengths off the winner at the line.
Stoute said: "He just didn't switch off like he normally does and the ground was quick enough. We don't think there is anything untoward. We had seven weeks to prepare him after leaving the Curragh alone. "Make no mistake, he will bounce back. That was only his fourth race."
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