Six up for Stoute as Poet's Word collars Crystal Ocean in thriller
There was a neck between Poet's Word and Crystal Ocean but a gulf between them and the rest as the pair underlined Sir Michael Stoute's pre-eminence in the Qipco-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Poet's Word was the trainer's sixth success in a race that defines his career more than any other.
Barely separable on form, ratings and in the betting, the pair settled their differences only at the end of a thrilling final-furlong tussle in which the James Doyle-ridden Poet's Word, conqueror of Cracksman in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, emerged triumphant over Hardwicke winner Crystal Ocean.
"It's a pity there was a loser, that's how you sum it up," said Stoute. "I thought Doyle could have done a little bit better and got a dead-heat! They are two such admirable horses, delightful to train."
Stoute's rosy relationship with the King George began 37 years ago when he claimed Flat racing's midsummer championship race with Shergar, his greatest ever horse.
He saddled the first three home in 2009, when Conduit beat Tartan Bearer and Ask, and the following year watched Harbinger land the prize by a record-winning margin of 11 lengths.
STOUTE'S KING GEORGE WINS
1981 Shergar (ridden by Walter Swinburn)
1993 Opera House (Michael Roberts)
2002 Golan (Kieren Fallon)
2009 Conduit (Ryan Moore)
2010 Harbinger (Olivier Peslier)
2018 Poet’s Word (James Doyle)
Sir Evelyn de Rothschild's Crystal Ocean – who provided Stoute with an 11th Hardwicke Stakes in June when he became Royal Ascot's winningmost trainer – headed the betting at 6-4 over 7-4 shot Poet's Word, owned by Saeed Suhail.
He appeared set to edge the race too as he was sent into a clear lead by William Buick when Rostropovich dropped away with two furlongs to run.
Poet's Word was being hard driven by Doyle with about three lengths to make up, but began to close as the line approached, getting on top only in the final 75 yards, the pair leaving leaving daylight between them and Coronet, nine lengths behind in third.
Doyle (four days) and Buick (two) received bans for whip breaches.
"There was nothing between them really," said Stoute. "I felt Poet's Word wouldn't get there until the last 100 yards or so.
"It's a great mid-season race and we've been lucky enough to do very well in it. It's a great team effort. You have no idea how much they all put into these horses."
Stoute, 72, had not won the King George since 2010, since when the flow of Group 1 triumphs for his Newmarket stable has slowed. He gained the last of his ten Flat trainers' championships in 2009.
"If you look closely we were having good winners abroad, in Breeders' Cups," he said. "We were hanging in there. I'm never going to be champion trainer again. I don't have the numbers and the quality has deteriorated with the Weinstocks getting out of racing, but at least we're making a few runs. I'll keep going.
"It's lovely to win a King George but I don't think I've spent my life thinking I wanted it. It's a race we always love to come and compete in and win. I haven't done it enough times if you like, but we're satisfied."
Poet's Word, now a Group 1 winner at a mile and a half as well as a mile and a quarter, is now favourite in most books for the Juddmonte International and is as short as 6-1 for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Crystal Ocean was also cut for the Arc, and is quoted at between 7-1 and 12-1.
Doyle has won two out of his three rides on Poet's Word, their only defeat coming in last year's Irish Champion Stakes.
"He was probably a little unlucky on him in the Irish Champion Stakes when he just didn't get the rub of the green," said Stoute, who was reluctant to nominate Poet's Word's next target.
"Soundness, temperament and an owner that's let me be patient with him is the key," Stoute added.
"They're in all the decent races but I don't know where they'll go next. We have to take them home and see how they come out of this."
He concluded: "It's a joy to train those two colts. It's a midsummer championship at a wonderful racecourse."
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