Fran Berry's Sporting Life blog: King George weekend

Desert Cross and Fran Berry (r) en route to victory at Bath
Desert Cross and Fran Berry (r) en route to victory at Bath

It's King George weekend at Ascot and top jockey Fran Berry discusses an exciting book of rides in his latest Sporting Life blog.

My week picked up at Bath on Wednesday with a double.

Desert Cross has done it very well and has now won twice this season so is paying his way. He's a consistent, fun horse to have and has given a lot of enjoyment to his owner. On his previous runs I thought he needed good ground and that the rain we had meant it had gone against him but he handled conditions better than I thought.

It was nice to ride a winner for Joe Tuite who has been very good to me. Fast Dancer hadn't won for two years so his owners have had to be very patient but he, and they, got reward for his consistency.

I had two near misses at Sandown on Thursday but both Global Rose and Bengal Lancer are worth keeping an eye on.

The filly was only beaten two heads after rallying. She was a breeze-up horse and didn't know what to do when she came off the bridle and she got lost on me for a furlong and could have dropped away but it's to her credit that she didn't and it was a good run in what was probably a better race than at Windsor.

Onto Saturday, the ground is going to be a big factor in the outcome of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the next 24 hours will be key.

Highland Reel is at the top of the game and would prefer it faster but Enable gets that large weight-for-age as well as a sex allowance and is probably the one to beat as a result.

It may be best leaving it until the day to see how conditions are but one that I do like each-way regardless is Idaho. There should be lots of pace and he'll be staying on strongly when others have had enough.

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I'll get a feel for the ground at Ascot on Friday with three rides, starting with Global Art in the Anders Foundation British EBF Crocker Bulteel Maiden Stakes.

He's a Dutch Art colt out of a juvenile winner and was an expensive purchase so he looks the part on paper but Ed's (Dunlop) two-year-olds often improve from their first go; hopefully he can run a nice race.

Wolfcatcher's form has been a bit mixed; he's been a bit in and out. Last May he finished a close fourth behind Desert Encounter at Newmarket and the winner's obviously improved since but that's still good form.

He travelled well for a long way in the Ascot Stakes and perhaps dropping back to two miles from a good draw in the John Guest Brown Jack Handicap will bring about some improvement. 

Cosmopolitan Girl is top-weight in the Chelsea Thoroughbreds October Club Charity Fillies' Handicap and is up 7lbs from her last win at Brighton but this actually represents a drop in class after her run in a Listed race last time. She ran well there, is only four and there could still be more to come.

There should certainly be more to come from Musical Art who is a nice scopey filly and the Princess Margaret Juddmonte Stakes represents a good stepping stone for her after her maiden win at Newbury.

Of course it's a big step up in class but she did well to win and the result definitely wasn't a surprise to connections. She was green with me at different stages of the race but finished strongly and was going away with the second in the final furlong and we pulled clear of the third.

I rode her in some easy work on Wednesday and she's definitely come forward physically for her debut and she's got a great attitude. She'll want further in time but there are only seven runners and it's a good race for her and she should run well.

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The ground was probably too soft for Masham Star at Newmarket last time and he'd gone well the time before at the July Meeting.

I rode him on his second start at York last season and they called it good ground but it was definitely on the softer side and he didn't handle it. Ascot can dry quickly and if it does he could have a live each-way chance in the Porsche Handicap as he's better than his last run.

I'm looking forward to riding Buckstay in the Gigaset International. I rode him a couple of years ago in the Ayr Gold Cup and he gave me a great spin over an inadequate trip, finishing fifth beaten a little over a length.

He's got plenty of weight tomorrow and hasn't come to hand yet but it sometimes takes a bit longer with these older horses and if he does come back then he'd have an each-way chance. He's a course and distance winner and the big field handicaps at this track seem to suit him best, the more rain the better for him and he could go well.

I ride Alcatraz in the Canisbay Bloodstock Handicap before heading off to Lingfield for two rides. He's a consistent horse who has been placed a lot. He ran a very good race at Newmarket in May and if he strips fit and well then he'd have every chance in a race which is competitive but perhaps not the strongest.

It looks the right move by Gay Kelleway to drop Global Academy back in trip for the George Dalligan Novice Stakes.  He ran far better than his finishing position suggests at Nottingham. They called it good ground but it was very soft and although he travelled like a winner, the trip and conditions found him out and he didn't get home. The experience won't have been lost on him and this looks a fair opportunity and it makes sense to turn him out again quickly.

Nuncio could take all the beating in the Young Epilepsy Median Auction Maiden Stakes with a bit of luck. He's still a maiden but is consistent and has run to his rating on his last few starts, including a second over course and distance.

Finally, I must end with the tragic incident at Haydock last weekend, even though it's difficult to know exactly what to say.

Our thoughts - all of us in the weighing room - are with Stephen Yarborough's family, friends and colleagues and it just doesn't bear thinking about.

As the news broke, we were all stunned and very concerned and it's been more subdued down at the start since.

It's a reminder once again of the dangers involved in this sport. Our gratitude must go to those, like Stephen, who work hard to make it as safe as possible.

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