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King George Vi Stakes Preview: Crystal Can Be A Gem At This Level

Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot is a race steeped in history, and it, rather fittingly considering its name, has regularly provided the coronation for the finest middle distance performers around.

King George Vi Stakes Preview: Crystal Can Be A Gem At This Level

Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot is a race steeped in history, and it, rather fittingly considering its name, has regularly provided the coronation for the finest middle distance performers around.

Crystal Ocean
Crystal Ocean Picture:Pat Healy Photography

Last year’s renewal was won by Enable, who produced a then career-best effort before going on to become the first three-year-old filly from Britain or Ireland to win the Arc at Chantilly in October, though she won’t defend her crown due to injury.

A logical starting point for this race is with Cracksman, Timeform ’s joint-highest rated horse in Europe, who suffered a shock defeat at Royal Ascot last month. He sits 6 lb clear on weight-adjusted ratings and would hold obvious claims on his best form should he take his chance, but the good to firm ground forecast means that is unlikely, unless there is a downpour of rain between now and Saturday.


Top two in the market set a lofty standard

The one who sets the standard is Crystal Ocean Horseform , whose progression from his three-year-old campaign has continued into this term, and his victory in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot was one of the best performances in that race in recent years. Whilst that bare form would only be good enough to win two of the previous five renewals of this race, it would be foolish to think that there isn’t more improvement yet, and he should take all the beating in his bid to collect a first Group 1.

The biggest threat is likely to come from stablemate Poet's Word Horseform, Cracksman Horseform’s conqueror in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, who produced a career-best effort to take his first Group 1 that day. He had been knocking on the door at this level for a while, finishing as runner-up on three occasions, and it was a smooth win for all that he came up against below-par opponents on the day. The return to a mile and a half here is likely to suit him, his strength at the finish on his two starts over a mile and a quarter this term a clue, and he is a big player in a race which doesn’t have the depth it promised at the start of the season.

Quantity rather than quality for Ballydoyle?

The Aidan O’Brien contingent could well be a sizeable one, with five left in at the five-day stage. It is likely that Ryan Moore will opt to ride Kew Gardens, one of six Group 1 winners in the 14-strong list of entries. That top level win came in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, where Dee Ex Bee was four and a quarter lengths back in third. Whilst some of the recent winners of that race haven’t subsequently achieved much, Kew Gardens looks a much brighter prospect. He looks like he is only just coming into his own now and is an interesting contender here in receipt of weight from his older rivals. He could well prove to be a St Leger candidate if proving his stamina, as could the durable Dee Ex Bee who may find this a little too hot.

O’Brien could also be represented by Hydrangea, last year’s Champion Fillies’ and Mares’ winner, who would hold claims on her best form, but she has been disappointing in two starts this term and has something to prove at present. It is likely that pacemaker duties could fall on the shoulders on one of the Frankel colts, Nelson and Rostropovich, who both have something to find on form. The same can be said for Cliffs of Moher Horseform who hasn’t progressed from last year’s Derby second but he has been consistent this term, hitting the frame on three occasions at this level – place honours are likely all he can hope for again.

Best of the rest

Salouen was 11 places behind Cliffs of Moher in the Derby last season, but he’s 2 lb in front of him on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, and is another who has been collecting placings in Group company this term, including in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last month. He’s likely to find at least one or two too good here, as is Desert Encounter. He ran creditably down in grade when second in a listed contest at Newbury last time, but was only eighth in this last year and again looks to have too much on his plate.

French challenger Waldgeist is one of the aforementioned Group 1 winners in this field, and he finished ahead of both Salouen and Coronet when opening his account at this level at Saint-Cloud last time. He’s in top form at present, progressing through the pattern system to complete a hat-trick, though he’s likely to find life tougher now he has graduated to this level. He’s also yet to face ground this quick. Coronet, meanwhile, produced a career best there, just losing out on a first Group 1 success on the nod, but she is yet to win outside of her own sex.

An interesting alternative at a much bigger price is the other French-trained runner, Bateel, who hasn’t seen the track since winning a Group 2 on reappearance at Saint-Cloud at May. That isn’t a negative, though, as she generally needs time between her races. She tends to race amongst her own sex, winning a Group 1 at Chantilly and finishing second in the Champion Fillies’ and Mares’ at Ascot last term, but doesn’t have too much to find in form terms with Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word. Her best form has come on ground with more give in it, though.

Conclusion

The improving three-year-old Kew Gardens is respected, but this appears to be between Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean. It’s likely that Poet’s Word will find a little more for the return to a mile and a half, but preference is for the year younger Crystal Ocean, who is open to plenty of improvement and is fancied to seal a first career Group 1 win at just the second time of asking. Salouen may be able to once again run into a place at this level.

Recommendation

Back Crystal Ocean to win Saturday’s King George VI Stakes at 2/1
Timeform




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