Ascot Showpiece Taking Shape

Frankie Dettori appeared thrilled with Enable as the pair prepare for Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

After taking her for a spin on Tuesday morning, the Italian jock announced that both he and the Oaks heroine are ready for the challenge: “She is just full of herself right now and raring to go. It's been a tough rehabilitation but I'm delighted to report I'm feeling good and getting stronger every day. I'm glad to say the physio is all done but I'm still training myself in the gym and I can't wait for this weekend.”

Sounding pretty revved-up at the prospect of getting back aboard the flying filly, Dettori added: “I got allotted 8st 7lb in the King George which is my bare minimum, so I need to keep my weight down. She was the reason I came back from injury so early. She really is special. I pushed myself so I could ride her in Ireland and it was worth it. The King George is a tough race but I'm really excited. She's getting a big weight allowance (a stone from Highland Reel) so she's entitled to be at the head of the market.”

The opposition looks strong, but the ground is also set to play its part, with the forecast remaining changeable. The jockey continued: “Highland Reel is obviously the biggest danger to our chances. He ran very well at Ascot before, and we know he stays. He's just got a great CV. Her pedigree suggests the ground shouldn't be any issue. I'd never tried her on soft ground until this morning. It was only a small ‘breeze’ but she seemed to handle it. We shall find out on Saturday.”

With the ground likely to run on the soft side of good, the bookies expect Highland Reel to drift further in the market, with Enable possibly shortening to odds-on. O’Brien’s globetrotting star has appeared at his best on quicker ground, though the trainer has confirmed that the five-year-old will take his chance. He looks to emulate Swain (97 and 98) in winning the race in consecutive years.

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“All is well with Highland Reel and Idaho," said the Master of Ballydoyle. "The better the ground, the more it will suit both of them. But whereas they wouldn't want really testing ground, we think they'll be quite adaptable if it is a bit on the easy side. The King George is always a very good race and that will again be the case on Saturday.”

O’Brien then spoke of Gosden’s filly, saying: “Enable has been very impressive winning the Oaks and the Irish Oaks. We've had fillies take her on three times this year, at Chester, Epsom and the Curragh, and we've been very impressed by her each time. She's obviously a very high-class filly.”

Team Godolphin have had a successful campaign to date, and John Gosden looks sure to let Jack Hobbs take his chance, on ground that ought to be more to his liking. Speaking to At The Races, the trainer said: “We always wanted to run him in the Prince of Wales's, but the fact it turned out to be the hottest June day for 40 years and the ground lightning fast was entirely the wrong thing for him. Obviously he's got no problem with a mile and a quarter. He's run brilliantly twice in autumn ground there, but a mile and a half with cut in the ground is right up his street.”

Along with Charlie Appleby’s Hawkbill and Frontiersman, the ‘Boys in Blue’ are set to run three-year-old Royal Ascot winner Benbatl. He’s trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who has won this prestigious event on five occasions. He believes soft ground will help his horse, saying: “Benbatl worked on the Limekilns on Monday and he worked really well. It's so far, so good and he's ready to go – we're just waiting for the green light from the boss. It's a top-quality race, obviously, but he deserves his chance after winning at Royal Ascot. The more rain the better.”

One that now seems likely to bypass Ascot, is Mark Johnston’s surprise package Permian. He’s proved a sensation during a hectic summer, and assistant Charlie Johnston told “I’d make it odds-against that he runs in the King George. We’ve got four options for him on the table at the moment, the two in the UK being the King George and the Juddmonte International and the Secretariat in America and a Group One in Germany in mid-August.

With the priority being to capture a Group One, Johnston added: “If the photo in France last time had gone our way (runner-up in Grand Prix De Paris) and we had that Group One in the bag then we might’ve started rolling the dice at races like the King George or the Juddmonte. But, it didn’t, so the priority in the short term has to be to try and get that Group One under his name and I expect the best chance of doing that would be going abroad.”

As the race starts to take shape, there’s no doubting the calibre of the entrants. This has the look of a stellar renewal. The weather is set to play a part in adding to the intrigue. Nevertheless, in Highland Reel and Enable, we have a talented duo capable of rising to the challenge. This should be a cracker.

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