The flat season enters a new phase this weekend and we have our first real opportunity to decipher the strength of the 3 year old middle distance division, as the likes of Taghrooda and Eagle Top take on their elder counterparts in the 64th running of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
For the first time in 3 years, the trophy will not be heading back to Germany as Danedream and Novellist are now busy breeding superstars of the future. This year, the home team look to have the greatest chance with the market seeming to suggest a dual between Sir Michael Stoute’s Telescope and John Gosden’s classic-winning Taghrooda.
The aforementioned pair were both hugely impressive when destroying their rivals in their most recent outings. The former produced a breath-taking display when taking the Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) here by 7 lengths last month; and the latter was by far the best when maintaining her unbeaten record in the Oaks.
Stoute has always spoken very highly of his 4 year-old colt, who will be ideally suited by the good-firm ground. However, 9/4 in a race of this magnitude for a horse who has never tasted group 1 success seems rather uncharitable for me to be rushing to back him. Similarly, the Oaks form of Gosden’s filly is by no means bullet-proof with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th on that day all being beaten since. At odds of 11/4 I’ll be looking to take on the daughter of Sea The Stars, too.
Magician will be looking to pull something out of the hat for Aidan O’Brien after a pleasing effort behind The Fugue at the Royal meeting, though his overall profile tells a story of inconsistency. 6/1 looks attractive if he’s in the right mood – but it’s a very big ‘if’.
While Mukhadram and Trading Leather (both 12/1) deserve plenty of credit for their respective 1st and 2nd in the Coral-Eclipse, the principles in that contest didn’t run to form. Kingston Hill was racing on the wrong ground over an inadequate trip, and The Fugue had run just 17 days previous. William Haggas’ 5 year-old was 2 lengths ahead at Sandown, though preference this time would be for the Godolphin owned Trading Leather, who can reverse the form over this longer trip. However, the feeling is that their battle could be taking place somewhere in midfield.
Despite not being a huge believer in market stats, knowing that the last 3 winners have returned between 5/1 and 10/1 has only strengthened my confidence behind Gosden’s so-called second string, EAGLE TOP. On just his third start, the 3 year-old showed a clear pair of heels to the highly-rated Adelaide in the King Edward VII Stakes here. He did so in a time 3 seconds faster than Bracelet, who won the filly’s equivalent and has since been victorious in the Irish Oaks. His Newmarket trainer would not have supplemented him for the race to make up the numbers. In fact, Nathaniel was also a late entry when winning for the same handler in 2011. William Buick’s course and distance winning mount is likely to improve again and can return the 5/1 winner.