John Gosden has tasted success in two of the last half-dozen King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and saddles the favourite for tomorrow’s race.
Enable is the daughter of his 2011 winner Nathaniel, and is looking to emulate his 2014 heroine Taghrooda, by landing this after success in the Epsom Oaks. Should she add her name to an illustrious roll of honour, she will become only the third filly to do so in more than 30 years.
She arrives having already romped to a pair of Oaks victories, with her last success at the Curragh particularly eye-catching. She’s a powerful traveller, with bags of speed and plenty of stamina. At Epsom in June, she outstayed the classy Ballydoyle filly Rhododendron, storming clear inside the final furlong. The older colts in the race must give her a stone, and that looks a tall order. She’s yet to encounter soft ground, though her dam was at her best in testing conditions. She has the look of a superstar. This race should tell us if she is.
Several outstanding colts lie in wait, with last year’s winner Highland Reel sure to prove a mighty challenger. The five-year-old has nine victories from 23 career starts, with six of those coming at Group One level. He was last seen winning the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, when finding plenty for pressure to pull clear of Decorated Knight and Ulysses. That came at 1m2f, though he is no less effective at a mile and a half, as last year’s victory showed. He went on to finish runner-up in the Arc behind stablemate Found, before travelling to America and winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
A nagging concern that many share over Highland Reel, is his record when the ground becomes more testing. He is yet to win any race when the surface becomes good to soft or worse, with poor performances coming at Leopardstown, Sha Tin and Meydan. My Dream Boat was ahead of him in last year’s Irish Champion, and I’m confident that wouldn’t happen on a sounder surface. He certainly takes to Ascot, having won twice from three visits, with the only defeat an unfortunate one, when his jockey dropped the whip during a driving finish.
Only a fool would discount the chances of O’Brien’s colt, and he’s developed into an outstanding international performer. But the doubts remain over his effectiveness on the ground.
Those same concerns can be levelled at the vastly improved Ulysses. Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old won the Coral-Eclipse earlier this month, though looked no match for Highland Reel in the Prince Of Wales’s the time before. He’s certainly progressive, but is thought to be at his best on a quicker surface. He’s a strong traveller through a race, but in a tussle between the pair, I’d be siding with Highland Reel.
Jack Hobbs was behind the pair at Royal Ascot, in what can only be described as a disappointing performance. The ground was undoubtedly quicker than ideal that day, and he was far more impressive in Dubai when winning the Sheema Classic on rain-softened ground. Injury curtailed his four-year-old campaign, and there’s a worry that he is not quite the same horse as when winning the Irish Derby so impressively in 2015. He did run a cracker at the end of last year, when third to Almanzor and Found in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. He has a strong performance in his locker, but is unreliable. On a going day, he’s a serious contender.
More rain would certainly bring My Dream Boat into the picture. Just shy of top class, the Clive Cox trained five-year-old is nevertheless a Group One winner, having lifted the Prince Of Wales’s on soft ground in 2016. He defeated Found that day, and a performance of that level would see him going close tomorrow. He ran well in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud earlier this month, and with conditions to suit has a much better chance than his 28/1 price suggests.
One that has been supported in the market, is Aidan O’Brien’s second-string Idaho. A full-brother to Highland Reel, this fella is thought to be less ground dependant. He won the Hardwicke Stakes last time, proving himself a powerful galloping sort, rather than a colt with gears. He was third to Harzand in the Epsom Derby last year, and runner-up to the same horse in the Irish version. Likely to have strengthened and improved since then, I remain uncertain as to whether he has enough class to win this. The ground will certainly help, and he looks a decent each-way proposition.
I fancy that Godolphin could have another serious contender in the three-year-old Benbatl. He was fifth in the Derby, despite being tailed-off at one stage, and clearly struggling with the track. He then won the Group Three Hampton Court at Royal Ascot, seeing off Ballydoyle’s Orderofthegarter. That form wouldn’t be good enough to win this, but I fancy he’ll handle the ground, being out of a Selkirk mare, and his three-year-old weight allowance is a huge plus. He’s lightly raced, and should be open to plenty of improvement. His odds of 25/1 look quite generous, and I’m keen on his chances.
Along with many others, I’m a huge Enable fan, and I fancy that she’ll win well. There’s plenty of dangers lurking in this quality field, but I’ll be taking a chance on Benbatl to land the each-way flutter. Best of luck to those having a punt.