It’s hard not to feel a little aggrieved after Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
One of the season’s most prestigious of races has been won by racing greats through the years. Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Grundy, Shergar, Dancing Brave, Montjeu and Galileo all stand proud on the Roll of Honour. Add to those giants of the sport the name of Postponed, trained by Luca Cumani.
It’s not to play down the achievement of the horse or trainer in lifting this coveted prize, but in all reality the horse is at best a decent Group 2 colt. He had won three of his previous 11 career starts and last time out finished third in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. On that occasion he was just done on the line for second spot by Eagle Top. This time round he got his revenge on John Gosden’s colt in a dramatic finish.
The withdrawal of Andre Fabre’s Arc runner-up Flintshire, and the eleventh hour omission of Gosden’s Golden Horn had surely robbed the public of a true Group 1 renewal. Fans were left with a Hardwicke re-run on soft ground, with the most adaptable colt likely to take the prize. As good a race as the Hardwicke is, it is not the King George.
Fabre’s decision is understandable. His consistent colt has nothing to prove. He may not be an outstanding racehorse but he’s certainly a classy one. He’s no World beater, but Flintshire is a Group 1 performer, capable of mixing it with the very best. Saved for another day, he will no doubt be running at the highest level in the not too distant future.
Many will rightly be split over Gosden’s decision. His outstanding colt could have become and maybe still could become one of the greats. Winning the King George in conditions less than ideal would have marked him down as one of the very best three-year-olds of the modern era. His omission only goes to highlight the probable chink in his armour.
Of course the trainer would have feared leaving his colt’s season floundering in Ascot’s mud, with so much more still to play for. For me, the decision was clear cut; put your faith in the equine star and go for gold. Sadly whatever the horse now achieves will have been tarnished by his King George ‘no show’.
Ending his career undefeated whilst protecting that all important stud value now appears to be the connections foremost objective. Golden Horn may prove to be outstanding, but it will be hard to convince the public that he is in the same league as Frankel or Sea The Stars.
For Postponed lofty ambitions are now the order of the day. Yesterday Cumani spoke of his intentions for the rest of the season: “There is no Group 1 left in Europe over a mile and a half other than the Arc, so I think we have to set our sights on that. It's a bigger mountain to climb and it's more than two months away, but I haven't had time to think about it yet.”
As for Golden Horn, it seems clear that any mention of soft in the ground description come October at Longchamp and Britain’s outstanding three-year-old colt will be swerving Europe’s most prestigious event. Even with a talented substitute like Jack Hobbs to call on, such a decision would still prove a huge disappointment for those who love this great sport.