In focus: King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot

Last Updated July 17 2018, 15:25Racing
Crystal Ocean: Leading player in the King George
Crystal Ocean: Leading player in the King George

Ben Linfoot looks at the pros and cons of the leading contenders ahead of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot later this month.

The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored by QIPCO) is the midsummer highlight at Ascot and the race is beginning to take shape ahead of this year’s renewal on July 28.

At the start of the campaign Cracksman headed the betting but his defeat to Poet’s Word at Royal Ascot saw John Gosden switch his focus to targets at the backend of the season and a mid-season break seems likely to rule the son of Frankel out of the showpiece occasion.

That leaves Sir Michael Stoute with the strongest of hands as he has the first two in the betting in Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word, with a win for either horse set to bring about a record-breaking (on his own) sixth victory in the King George.

Here, Ben Linfoot takes an early look at the pros and cons of the leading contenders…


Crystal Ocean – Sky Bet odds: 7/4

Pros: Crystal Ocean is from a top-class late-maturing family that have all been nurtured along by the master trainer of a middle-distance older horse, Sir Michael Stoute. By Sea The Stars out of the fantastic broodmare Crystal Star, Crystal Ocean is a half-brother to Crystal Capella and Hillstar, two horses that won 12 races and over £1,000,000 in prize-money between them, with the latter winning at the top-level in the Canadian International at Woodbine. Both reached their peak as four-and five-year-olds and the signs are Crystal Ocean is doing the same, kicking on from his St Leger second this season with three victories at Group Two and Three level. His dominance has been there for all to see when he stepped back up to 1m4f and he got a King George course and distance win to his name in the Hardwicke last time. Stoute has won the King George a joint-record five times.

Cons: With the King George being nominated as his target from some way out, his winning run means his odds have shortened to a best of 7/4. He has yet to win at Group One level and Ryan Moore, who has ridden him on his last four victories, may well end up riding one for Aidan O’Brien. He rode Crystal Ocean in the Hardwicke instead of O’Brien’s Idaho and Cliffs Of Moher, but doing so in the King George against an improving Ballydoyle three-year-old might be a whole more difficult conversation.

Recent quotes: Sir Michael Stoute: “They are both [Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word] fine at the moment. They are being trained for the King George and the plan is to go to Ascot with both horses.”

Video replays:

Crystal Ocean
Crystal Ocean: Leading player in the King George

Poet’s Word – Sky Bet odds: 9/4

Pros: Another Sir Michael Stoute slow-burner, Poet’s Word ended his three-year-old campaign rated 104 but had progressed to 119 by the end of his four-year-old career after his victory in the Glorious Stakes at Goodwood and excellent seconds in both the Irish and British Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and Ascot respectively. Although beaten seven lengths by Cracksman at Ascot, his half-length second to Decorated Knight in the Irish Champion suggested he was knocking at the door at the top level and he’s barged his way through it in 2018 as a five-year-old. Second again in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, he warmed up for Royal Ascot by winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown and then gained his revenge on Cracksman in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes in fine style. He’s rated 126 now.

Cons: The three best performances of his career have come over 10 furlongs and his improvement this season has come over that trip. He has won over 1m4f at Group Three level which gives hope his improvement is down to maturity rather than excelling at 10 furlongs but his second in the Sheema Classic came off a very slow pace. He does have to prove himself at the trip at this level.

Recent quotes: Sir Michael Stoute: “They are both [Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word] fine at the moment. They are being trained for the King George and the plan is to go to Ascot with both horses.”

Video replays:

Poet's Word wins the opener under Ryan Moore
Poet's Word: Better over 1m2f on all previous form

Kew Gardens – Sky Bet odds: 6/1

Pros: Three-year-old colts get 11lb on the weight-for-age scale over 1m4f in the King George and Kew Gardens has emerged as the pre-eminent representative from that age group in this year’s race following victories in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the Group One Grand Prix de Paris at ParisLongchamp over the weekend. Given the way he won the Queen’s Vase a drop back in trip wasn’t obvious but he showed he had gears when winning in France and he does look to be thriving going into the race. Handled Ascot well in the Queen’s Vase and Aidan O’Brien is going for his fifth win in the race which would make him the contest’s most successful trainer along with Stoute, Dick Hern and Saeed bin Suroor.

Cons: Second in the Lingfield Derby Trial and then well beaten in the main event at Epsom, there is still a question of whether he is good enough for a test as steep as this. His last two victories have been good but he hasn’t beaten much relative to the level of the big two from Stoute’s yard and the way he won the Queen’s Vase suggested he might be more of a stayer than a King George horse.

Recent quotes: Aidan O’Brien: “We're delighted with him, the plan was to come here and then maybe if everything went well we may have a look at the King George. We wanted to come back to a mile and a half before we went to the King George, obviously he won over a mile and six in Ascot. You couldn't be happier with him. Ryan took his time on him and rode him for pace. He quickened up well and was brave at the end. He's a very progressive colt, he's progressed lovely since his last run."

Video replays:

Kew Gardens - Grand Prix de Paris - Longchamp 14/07/18

Waldgeist – Sky Bet odds: 8/1

Pros: Andre Fabre’s son of Galileo has won three in a row, all over 1m4f, and he’s shown a good level of form the last twice, winning the Group Two Grand Prix de Chantilly by three lengths from Dschingis Secret in June before nudging out Coronet by a nose in the Group One Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last time. Gained experience of Ascot when narrowly beaten in the Group Three Cumberland Lodge Stakes in October and looks to have improved as a four-year-old even considering he was a Group One winner at two and a narrow second in last year’s Prix du Jockey Club.

Cons: Has yet to encounter good to firm ground and handles cut particularly well, so, if the weather holds through to Saturday week, he may have questions to answer when it comes to conditions. Certainly, his career-best effort came on soft ground at Chantilly in June and while this could end up being a pro if the weather turns, it’s looking unlikely at this stage.

Recent quotes: Andre Fabre: "I'm delighted with him, of course. He is in the King George and if he recovers well we will look at it. I'm not sure if he has improved this season or not. Last year he hurt his back in the Irish Derby and it took him a long time to recover."

Video replays:

Grand Prix de Chantilly 2018 - Chantilly / Waldgeist

Coronet – Sky Bet odds: 8/1

Pros: A John Gosden-trained filly – and two of the last three winners of this race have fitted that description. This one wouldn’t be in the same league as Taghrooda and Enable, but she’s in good form and handles fast ground well as she proved when impressing in the Middleton Stakes at York in May. That was over the extended 10 furlongs, but she stays well, as she showed when not beaten far in the St Leger, and she’s won over the King George course and distance when landing the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot last year.

Cons: Hasn’t shown a level of form in any race that suggests she’s up to winning an up-to-scratch renewal of the King George and you would think there might have to be a high-profile defection or two if she’s to get involved. Frankie Dettori has ridden her on both occasions this season, but currently he won’t be riding her in the King George thanks to his 10-day ban although he has lodged an appeal against it.

Recent quotes: John Gosden: “She took the race at York super. She is in good form and I’m very happy with her. I think a mile and a half is probably her best trip.”

Video replays:

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