Keane confirmed to ride Westover in King George contest

Colin Keane will maintain his partnership with Westover in next week’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

Ralph Beckett’s charge was ridden by Rob Hornby on his first two starts this year, winning the Classic Trial at Sandown before finishing an unlucky third in the Derby at Epsom.

Hornby was replaced by Keane for Westover’s Irish Derby run, with connections citing the Irish champion jockey’s experience of the Curragh track as the reason for his booking.

The duo duly came home hugely-impressive seven-length winners of the Classic and Keane will keep the ride in the Ascot showpiece, for which the son of Frankel is favourite in the absence of his Epsom conqueror Desert Crown.

Jockey Colin Keane (left) and trainer Ralph Beckett (right) celebrate after Westover's Curragh success
Jockey Colin Keane (left) and trainer Ralph Beckett (right) celebrate after Westover’s Curragh success (Niall Carson/PA)

Westover is set to clash with Epsom Oaks second Emily Upjohn after her intended Irish Oaks run was scuppered by travel issues and Barry Mahon, general manager for owners Juddmonte, is eagerly anticipating the challenge.

He told Racing TV: “We’re very excited. We were in this position before the Irish Derby with (Oaks winner) Tuesday getting supplemented, so we’re used to surprises.

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“We’re very excited, the horse is in good form. I spoke with Ralph this morning, he’s very happy with him and all being well in the next few days, he’s set to go to the King George and Colin Keane will ride him.”

Mahon is pleased Keane will be able to maintain the partnership.

He added: “(There’s) no major thinking (behind the decision), he won on him the last day, he’s a three-times champion jockey and we have a very close association with him.

“He’s rode two Classic winners for us and we have a special arrangement with him that when his first retainer Ger Lyons doesn’t use him, we can have his services and he’s available next weekend and Ger has kindly let him off to ride the horse, so he will stay on board.”

Rob Hornby rode Westover (right) to win at Sandown
Rob Hornby rode Westover (right) to win at Sandown (John Walton/PA)

Beckett added: “We have three riding out regularly, Rossa Ryan, Rob Hornby and Hector Crouch. If an owner wants somebody else, everybody knows that is the way it works – that is the way it is. We don’t have a stable jockey.

“There is really nothing more to add than that. All parties understand that.

“Colin got on well with him, but I think anyone would. That is what the family want and it is just a follow-on from what I said earlier.”

Westover (left) will not have a King George rematch with Desert Crown
Westover (left) will not have a King George rematch with Desert Crown (David Davies/PA)

Beckett admits it is disappointing Desert Crown will miss out due to a setback, but he expects plenty to be in Westover’s favour at Ascot.

He said: “His work has been done and we are very happy with him. We are looking forward to it.

“It is a great shame the Derby winner is not showing up. It is really unfortunate for the race. It is the midsummer highlight. We grew up on Shergar, Ela-Mana-Mou and it is important for the race that the best horses show. Emily Upjohn adds to the race.

“The ground is not a problem for him. I doubt it will be that firm, as Ascot will be putting plenty of water on.

“He has handled the big occasion – he is good like that. It is one less thing to worry about. Famous last words, but previously it has not been a concern.”

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