With Enable and Magical dominating the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting, Ben Linfoot looks back on the 10 previous renewals to be won by fillies and mares.
The summer of 1966 was a memorable one, as Aunt Edith became the first filly to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in what was the 16th renewal.
Trained by Noel Murless and ridden by Lester Piggott, Aunt Edith was bouncing back from an odds-on defeat in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, where she finished a 15-length fifth to Prominer.
That was an unexpected and unexplained defeat on the back of her previous heroics. On her three starts before the 1966 Hardwicke she had won the previous year’s Nassau Stakes, the 1965 Prix Vermeille and the 1966 Yorkshire Cup.
Not only had she won them, but the form was extremely strong. In the Vermeille she won by eight lengths as easily as that winning distance suggests, with Long Look, that year’s Oaks winner, Tadolina, that year’s Oaks d’Italia winner and Blabla, that year’s Prix de Diane winner, amongst the vanquished.
In the Yorkshire Cup she beat the previous year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner, Fighting Charlie, by four lengths, and he went onto retain his crown at the Royal meeting.
No wonder she was odds-on for the Hardwicke, but she proved that result all wrong in the five-runner King George, taking the lead early in the straight and running on strongly to win by half a length.
Prominer, her Hardwicke conqueror, was back in third, and the runner-up was Sodium, the Derby fourth, who reversed form with the Epsom winner Charlottown in the Irish Sweeps Derby, the first of two Classic wins as he also went onto win the St Leger later that season, too.
In her swansong Aunt Edith was sent off favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, where she was bidding to give Piggott his first victory in the race.
She didn’t fire, though, finishing eighth, the jockey having to wait another seven years for his first Arc success aboard Rheingold in 1973.
Park Top’s 1969 King George success came in the middle of a stellar season for the five-year-old mare.
Bernard van Cutsem’s horse was unraced at two, but she won the Ribblesdale from the Oaks runner-up, St Pauli Girl, as a three-year-old, before she won the Brighton Cup for a second time at four.
She was undoubtedly a late bloomer, although we nearly didn’t get to find such things out.
The intention was to retire her to stud at the end of her four-year-old season, but such was the disappointment that she couldn’t finish her career on a high, when defeated by Chicago in the Cumberland Lodge, that owner Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, decided to keep her in training.
She began her five-year-old campaign with victory in the Prix de la Seine at Longchamp, where she was ridden for the first time by Piggott, and she beat the previous year’s Ribblesdale winner, Pandora Bay, by two and a half lengths.
It was there and then that Piggott agreed to ride her in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, where a late turn of foot was evident as she got the better of Mount Athos, Connaught and Remand, the three horses that had trailed home Sir Ivor in the 1968 Derby.
Not only that, but she won in a canter in a time two seconds faster than Blakeney’s Derby, while she got the better of her old rival Chicago in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on her next start, as well.
Park Top did not go into the King George on the back of a victory, however, as she was denied room in the Eclipse won by Piggott and Wolver Hollow at Sandown, jockey Geoff Lewis having to circle the field to finish second.
Piggott was back on board Park Top in the King George and the pair came from last to first to beat Crozier and Hogarth in terrific style, a performance that underlined her status as the dominant older middle-distance horse in Europe.
She was to be subsequently denied in the Arc, though, by the four-year-old colt, Levmoss, after getting trapped behind a wall of horses on her way to a fast-finishing three-quarters-of-a-length defeat.
In 1973 Dahlia became the third filly to win the King George and a year later she became the first horse to win the race twice.
An outstanding race mare, she was a pioneer for racing overseas after winning major races in the UK, Ireland, France, Canada and the United States and she was the first mare to win more than $1,000,000 in prizemoney.
Her first King George came in the July of 1973 and against a supreme cast of opponents.
Just a week on from her victory in the Irish Oaks, Dahlia accounted for Rheingold, that year’s subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, by six lengths, with Our Mirage third and Weaver’s Hall, the Irish Derby winner, fourth.
Horses like Roberto, the 1972 Derby winner and conqueror of Brigadier Gerard, Scottish Rifle, that year’s Eclipse winner, Hard To Beat, the Prix du Jockey Club winner and Parnell, the Irish St Leger winner, were even further behind.
Turning for home Dahlia was stone last, but she put in a storming run up the rails to lead two furlongs out and she just drew further clear to win in what was then a race-record time.
On the back of greats of the game like Nijinsky, Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard winning the first three renewals of the King George in the 1970s, Dahlia certainly didn’t let the side down.
An interrupted preparation was to blame as she finished down the field in the 1973 Arc, but Dahlia still had time to slot in another victory in the Washington D.C International at Laurel Park before she embarked on a four-year-old campaign.
Maurice Zilber’s filly took her time to get going in 1974. She suffered defeats to Allez France in the Prix d’Harcourt and Prix Ganay before she finished third in the Coronation Cup at Epsom after being given plenty to do.
She did get back on the winning trail before the King George, though, when beating On My Way by a neck in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and with that win under her belt she was sent off at 15/8 to retain her crown in the King George.
With Piggott back in the saddle she sauntered to victory at Ascot for a second time, again from top-class opposition.
Highclere, the 1000 Guineas and Prix de Diane winner, was second, Snow Knight, the Derby winner, was third and Dankaro, the top French three-year-old colt, was fourth.
Dahlia went onto win many more races, including during a long stint at the end of her career in the U.S, but she was denied a third King George in 1975 as she had to settle for third behind that famous duel between Grundy and Bustino.
In 1976 French horses dominated the European racing scene.
Apart from the 2000 Guineas, won by Henry Cecil’s Wollow, all of the English Classics were won by French-trained horses and so were the Irish Oaks and Irish Derby.
Daniel Wildenstein’s Pawneese was one of them, a dual-Classic winner that year, as she won both the Oaks and the Prix de Diane, her latter victory at Chantilly coming just nine days after a five-length romp at Epsom.
A feature of those Classic victories was her strong-travelling style of racing on the front end and, yet again, she was sent to the lead from the outset in the 1976 King George by her jockey, Yves Saint-Martin.
The three-year-old set a quick pace and wasn’t for catching, finishing a length ahead of the fast-finishing Bruni at the line, the runner-up a winner of the previous year’s St Leger.
Trained by the French-based Argentinian handler Angel Penna Sr, best known for his achievements with the exceptional Arc-winning mare Allez France, Pawneese never recaptured her form after that sizzling summer of 1976 and she finished way down the field in both the Vermeille and the Arc.
Her King George victory was her sixth consecutive win, however, and, while she was part of a golden period for French racing, they would have to wait another 24 years before winning the King George again with Montjeu in 2000.
The wait for another filly to win the King George wasn’t quite as long, just seven years to be precise, when Henry Candy’s Time Charter landed the 1983 renewal with a swift late run.
The daughter of Saritamer had enjoyed a fantastic three-year-old campaign in 1982, when she won the Oaks at Epsom by a length, the Sun Chariot when it was a 10-furlong Group 2 at Newmarket and the Champion Stakes over the same course and distance.
Things didn’t go to plan in the early part of her four-year-old season, though, as a few niggles meant she wasn’t 100 per cent for her reappearance in the Jockey Club Stakes, where she was second, while a leg injury ruled her out of the Coronation Cup.
Her next assignment came in a slowly-run renewal of the Eclipse where she stayed on for sixth, but that put her spot on for the King George in which the 48-year-old Joe Mercer replaced the injured Billy Newnes in the saddle.
Still five lengths off the lead a quarter of a mile from home, Time Charter came with a flourishing run down the outside to win by three-parts of a length from Diamond Shoal, with Sun Princess a further length back in third.
Diamond Shoal had won four races that year in the UK, France and Italy, including the Gran Premio di Milano and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, while Sun Princess was that year’s Oaks winner and went onto win the Yorkshire Oaks and St Leger later that season, as well.
Time Charter won the Prix Foy and the following year’s Coronation Cup after her King George win, but could only finish fourth behind Teenoso when attempting to retain her crown at Ascot in 1984.
After Time Charter it was 29 years before another filly won the King George.
It was worth the wait, though, as Peter Schiergen’s Danedream won a stellar renewal on the nod after a pulsating finish in 2012, sealing a first win in the race for Germany in the process.
Seven of the field had won a Group One, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Coronation Cup, Eclipse, Hong Kong Vase, Melbourne Cup, Prix du Jockey Club and St Leger, while Danedream herself was the reigning Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe champion.
She wasn’t the only international raider, either, with France well-represented by Dunaden and Reliable Man, while Japanese Derby hero Deep Brillante represented the Classic generation.
Despite her status as the current Arc heroine, Danedream had finished fourth of four on her previous start in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, so she was sent off at 9/1 with Sea Moon (2/1 favourite), Nathaniel (5/2) and St Nicholas Abbey (5/1) dominating the betting.
It came down to an old-fashioned duel between Nathaniel, the previous year’s winner, and Danedream from a furlong out, the German filly having done well to regain her momentum having been slightly hampered two furlongs from home.
She had to really knuckle down under Andrasch Starke’s drive to just deny Nathaniel and William Buick right on the line by a nose, with only close examination of the photo-finish confirming the result.
Denied a chance to retain her Arc crown by the German agriculture department, Danedream only raced once more and won the Grosser Preis von Baden for a second time.
As for John Gosden, well, he’d quickly bounce back in the same race a few years later, while Nathaniel’s King George story wasn’t over yet, either.
Taghrooda was so good she was sent off the 9/2 favourite to beat Treve in the 2014 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
As it was Treve bounced back to win her second Arc and Taghrooda finished a creditable third from a wide draw, having been a bit keen on the outside.
A win in Paris would’ve been a career high for the daughter of Sea The Stars, but defeat there meant it was her King George win that she’ll be remembered for.
It was some performance. Not only was it just the fourth start of her career (her third was an emphatic Classic success in the Oaks) but it was her first against the colts and Gosden had taken a bold reroute to Ascot in favour of what looked a penalty kick in the Irish Oaks.
The opposition looked strong enough if not vintage.
Telescope was the favourite on the back of a seven-length success in the Hardwicke, but he had never faced Group One company at that point, while Taghrooda’s stablemate Eagle Top was supplemented after his own Royal Ascot success in the King Edward VII Stakes and he hadn’t tackled a top-level race, either.
Group One winners like Trading Leather, Magician and Mukhadram had questions to answer, like form, ground and trip respectively, but there were question marks for Taghrooda, too, not least was she good enough to beat the colts, even with all the allowances?
She answered the question emphatically. Held up off the strong gallop set by Trading Leather’s pacemaker Leitir Mor, Paul Hanagan began to make up his ground rounding the turn for home but they still had plenty to do two furlongs out.
As Telescope mastered Mukhadram up front, Taghrooda propelled into overdrive on the outside and swept to the front a furlong out, going clear for a superb three-length success.
At the time, Taghrooda was only the second filly to win the Oaks and the King George in the same year after the aforementioned Pawneese in 1976.
But then Enable came along...
Having won the King George with the three-year-olds Nathaniel in 2011 and Taghrooda in 2014, there was huge disappointment on the day of the 2015 renewal when Gosden pulled Derby hero Golden Horn out just hours before the race on account of the ground.
The trainer came within a nose of winning it anyway, with the four-year-old Eagle Top, while that horse’s full-brother and stablemate, Wings of Desire, was second in the following year’s King George to Highland Reel.
So it was to be three years after Taghrooda that Gosden won the King George again, with another three-year-old Oaks-winning filly in Enable, a daughter of Nathaniel.
An emphatic five-length winner over Rhododendron in a thunderstorm at Epsom, Enable had gone over to Ireland for the Irish Oaks penalty kick and duly obliged, so she was sent off as 5/4 favourite to prevail at Ascot.
Rain seemed to follow Enable around in the summer of 2017 and the King George was run during a heavy shower, but the softest ground she’d encountered on her first run against the colts wasn’t enough to stop her as she defeated Ulysses by four-and-a-half lengths in tremendous fashion.
Injury prevented her from defending her King George crown in 2018, but she came back to Ascot last summer with two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victories under her belt and she got the better of Crystal Ocean and Waldgeist in an Ascot classic.
So here we are in 2020 with Enable going for a record third King George. Dahlia couldn’t do it, the only other dual winner, Swain, didn’t try to do it, but he did at least win the race as a six-year-old, the oldest winning horse in the contest’s 69-year history.
Enable is six now and she might not be quite as good as she was. If she is, she’ll win, and if she isn’t, she might win anyway.
After all, the closest horse to her in the betting, Magical, has already been beaten by her on five occasions.
It’s a strange renewal of the King George, with prizemoney slashed, with only two trainers represented, with none of the Classic generation turning up. But it could be a history-making race, the first horse to win three.
And she’s the latest of a long line of superb fillies and mares to leave their mark on Ascot's midsummer highlight.