What a scorcher! King George the highlight of a super summer's day of racing
The day in a nutshell
For those of a certain age, Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (3.40) will always be a major highlight of the summer.
Legends of the turf such as Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Shergar, Dancing Brave, Nashwan and Galileo have all strutted their stuff in the mile-and-a-half spectacular and, while some trainers and owners nowadays seem to prefer to give it a wide berth in order to wait for the lucrative international events in the autumn, Sir Michael Stoute has declared his two middle-distance stars Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word.
The King George day card also features a £150,000 handicap, the Gigaset International Stakes (3.00), the Group 3 Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes (1.50), a Listed event run in honour of Pat Eddery, who lit up this afternoon on many an occasion, including when involved in arguably the most famous King George of all, the epic duel up the straight between Grundy and Bustino in 1975.
Lady amateur riders also have one of their big days of the year when competing for the Longines Handicap.
While the race may not be as prestigious or valuable as it once was, you can rest assured that victory will produce a special moment the jockey will never forget.
And with six other meetings in Britain, including at York, Newmarket and Chester, it’s another of those hazy, crazy but certainly not lazy Saturdays of summer.
No Frankie but still a great race
Cracksman has been ruled out of King George, but he wouldn't have been partnered by regular rider Frankie Dettori anyway.
The three-time champion, who has enjoyed many special moments at Ascot during his long and illustrious career, including five King George triumphs, the latest of which came aboard Enable 12 months ago, is suspended until Thursday. Ironically, the filly on which he received the ban – Angel’s Hideaway – takes her place in the Princess Margaret.
As Ascot’s director of racing and communications, Nick Smith, said on hearing of the Italian’s unsuccessful bid to overturn the ban earlier this week: “It’s always disappointing when Frankie can’t ride at Ascot – the crowd relate to him and he’s part of the furniture here.”
Dettori fans will have to wait until the third day of Glorious Goodwood next week to see their hero back in action.
Don't dress down at Chester
It could only happen in Britain! As temperatures reached near-record levels this week, Chester tweeted that the normal dress code for its Saturday fixture would remain.
For gentlemen in the members' enclosure that means a jacket, shirt, collar and tie, while those wearing “shorts, sportswear, T-shirts and fancy dress” won’t be able to gain admission to Tattersalls either.
Even Lord's announced on Thursday that the heatwave has led to a temporary relaxing of the strict dress code for cricket spectators in the Pavilion.
For those of you getting hot under the collar just reading this, it might be pertinent to note that temperatures in Chester on Saturday are forecast to drop to 19C during the afternoon, fully 7C lower than 24 hours earlier.
Health of O'Brien stable under scrutiny
Aidan O’Brien has won the King George four times courtesy of Galileo (2001), Dylan Thomas (2007), Duke Of Marmalade (2008) and Highland Reel (2016).
He is represented on Saturday by Hydrangea, the mount of Ryan Moore, and the Seamie Heffernan-ridden Rostropovich.
However, alarm bells about the form of the Ballydoyle stable have been ringing – probably prematurely – in some quarters this week after it was reported Kew Gardens, who was an intended King George runner, didn’t scope 100 per cent clean.
O’Brien admits “there seems to be a bit of a bug about”, but most of those who have run recently seem fine.
After all, 62 per cent of his horses have run to form in the last fortnight, with perhaps the shock defeat of 4-9 Goddess at Leopardstown on Thursday the sole disappointment.
Prescott hot, hot, hot
Sir Mark Prescott runners invariably make hay while the sun shines, and this summer is no exception.
Up to the end of Friday's afternoon meetings, the Newmarket maestro has sent out 11 winners in the last two weeks, and has a particularly well-handicapped horse in Grey Spirit, who won in a canter at Yarmouth on Thursday, just four days after opening his account impressively at Redcar.
Prescott has four runners in Britain on Saturday, including Trouble And Strife who bids for a quickfire Lingfield treble in the 1m6f handicap (6.00) under stable jockey Luke Morris.
Deauville summer season upon us
Saturday sees the start of the Deauville summer season, which has captivated racing fans for more than a century.
The first Group 1, the Prix Rothschild for fillies and mares, takes centre stage on Sunday and there will be plenty of time over the next month or so for visitors to stroll along the beachfront with a salted caramel ice cream, apparently the taste of Deauville 2018.
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