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Love and Adayar clash in classic renewal of King George contest

Superstar filly Love and Derby hero Adayar lock horns in a mouth-watering renewal of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

The midsummer highlight invariably throws up a clash of the generations – and this year’s renewal at Ascot on Saturday is no exception, with Classic form from last year and this put to the test.

Aidan O’Brien’s Love dominated her rivals when completing a Classic double in the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks last season, while victory in the Yorkshire Oaks was supposed to set her up for a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The daughter of Galileo ultimately missed out on a trip to Paris – but having looked as good as ever when making a successful return in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, she is a hot favourite to provide her trainer with a fifth King George success.

O’Brien said: “We were delighted to be able to give her the run in the Prince of Wales. She ended up making the running, but she’s very straightforward and very genuine – and everything has gone well with her since.

“She’s very versatile – she had the pace to win a Guineas and seemed to get the Oaks trip very well.

“For any Flat horse, you want nice ground – and she’s a nice mover.”

The Ballydoyle handler has a second string to his bow in the form of Broome, who has won four of his six starts this season and was last seen breaking his duck at the top level in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud three weeks ago.

Broome (left) joins stablemate Love in the King George
Broome (left) joins stablemate Love in the King George (PA)

“He’s been running very well all year and gets a mile and a half well,” the trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He loves to bowl along. In an ideal world you’d like to get a lead, but he is a horse who likes an even tempo. We’d be delighted if someone gave him a lead – if not he’d bowl along himself, I suppose.

“He’s in good form and seems to have come out of his last race well.”

Adayar was the least fancied of three runners for Charlie Appleby in last month’s premier Classic, but could hardly have been more impressive in the hands of Adam Kirby.

That form has been boosted by stablemate Hurricane Lane, who has landed both the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris since finishing third at Epsom – giving Appleby hope Adayar can become the first horse since Galileo 20 years ago to complete the Derby-King George double.

He said: “It hasn’t been done since Galileo, so to take Adayar there is a huge occasion.

“What surprised us at Epsom was the turn of foot he showed halfway up the run-in, because we’d never seen it before. Post-race we analysed it, and Hurricane Lane probably wouldn’t have been able to quicken like Adayar did.

“We’ve seen what St Mark’s Basilica did for that generation in the Eclipse at Sandown, and now the three-year-olds go into the big-boy division over a mile and a half.

“I’d love to think he’s still developing. It will be interesting to see what the paddock watchers say on Saturday – but he looks fantastic, and I’d be confident if you didn’t know who he was you couldn’t pick him out as a three-year-old among the older horses.”

The other three-year-old in the six-strong field for the Qipco British Champions Series contest is the Martyn Meade-trained Lone Eagle, who was denied in the shadows of the post by Hurricane Lane in the Irish Derby a month ago.

Lone Eagle (left) fights out the finish to the Irish Derby with Hurricane Lane
Lone Eagle (left) fights out the finish to the Irish Derby with Hurricane Lane (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

With his rider Frankie Dettori bidding to add to a record tally of seven King George wins, hopes are high that Lone Eagle can etch his name on the illustrious roll of honour.

Meade said: “It’s all systems go, and we hope he can go one place better (than in the Irish Derby), but if we learned anything at the Curragh it was to put up with disappointment.

“It was just the worst thing, getting done on the line. He was so far clear two out, and we were just about reaching for the champagne at the furlong marker, so it was hard to bear.”

Mishriff enjoyed a hugely lucrative start to 2021 – completing a big-race international double with victories in the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic.

He had to make do with minor honours in third on his return from a break in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown three weeks ago, but is expected to strip fitter for the run.

Thady Gosden, who trains Mishriff in partnership with his father John, said: “He’s doing well. It’s obviously a tough race – most of the top horses around seem to be heading there.

“He’s come on for his run at Sandown and goes there in good enough form.

“He obviously ran in February and March, and it’s a long time to keep them going all season, so we thought we best give him a break before the summer.”

King George could be preferred destination for Mishriff

Connections of Mishriff will consider two options for the return to action of Mishriff, with the Sky Bet York Stakes a possible alternative to the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes – though the Ascot showpiece appears to be the more likely target.

As a dual Group One winner, the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mishriff would have to give a lot of weight to the Group Two opposition on the Knavesmire that could include the highly-regarded three-year-old colt Mohaafeth.

The weight differential is not as much in the King George because of its top-level status.

Mishriff in the paddock before the Eclipse
Mishriff in the paddock before the Eclipse (Nick Robson/PA)

Both races are on Saturday week, which could give Mishriff enough time to recover ahead of another target on the horizon, the Juddmonte International, over York’s extended mile and a quarter on August 18.

Mishriff’s two Group One triumphs have come on foreign soil, in the French Derby and the Dubai Sheema Classic, and connections would love the Make Believe colt to achieve a domestic success at the top level.

He was last seen in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, finishing third to St Mark’s Basilica.

“He might go to York or he might go to the King George. He’s got to give away a lot more weight at York as he gets a Group One penalty there as well as (giving away) the age allowance. It’s in John’s hands,” said Ted Voute, racing manager to owner Prince Faisal.

“Mishriff came back from the Eclipse and was kicking and bucking. John said was very fresh so he got him back on the gallops.

“After the Eclipse he blew quite a bit. He’s a four-year-old now and that might have put him spot on for a race next Saturday.

“It’s in John’s hands and the Prince is happy to go with whatever he feels.

“We’ll wait and see where he guides us, but I suspect he’ll guide us to the King George. That seems to be the way the vibes are.

“There’s only one horse, Twice Over, who has one the Group Two at York and then the Juddmonte at York. There is a Group One at Munich, but we’d have to supplement him.

“That was in the middle of the Eclipse and the Juddmonte, but we are keen to get a domestic Group One. That would be the icing on the cake.”

Hurricane boost as Meade plans King George challenge with Lone Eagle

Lone Eagle is on course for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes after his Irish Derby form was thoroughly franked by Hurricane Lane’s Grand Prix de Paris victory.

The two colts crossed paths at the Curragh in the 12-furlong Classic in June, with Godolphin’s Hurricane Lane prevailing narrowly just a neck ahead of Lone Eagle and Ballydoyle’s Wordsworth a further seven lengths back in third.

Lone Eagle has not run since, but both Hurricane Lane and Wordsworth were in action in Wednesday’s Group One feature at ParisLongchamp – where they finished first and second respectively.

Martyn Meade, Lone Eagle’s trainer, was already considering the King George as a next engagement for his colt – and this month’s Ascot Group One looks even more likely after his form was emphatically rubber-stamped at the top level in Paris.

“It’s a good form boost, and he’s in good form himself,” said Meade.

“That franked the form nicely, and also the second-placed horse was third to us at the Curragh.

“It’s a big ask, a week on Saturday at Ascot, but I think that’s where we’ll go.

“That’s the plan at the moment, to run in the King George.”

Lone Eagle was not able to take up his entry in the Derby following an unsatisfactory scope, but Meade reports him in fine shape after his Curragh exploits.

“Touch wood, nothing goes wrong like it did before the Derby,” he said.

“He wasn’t quite 100 per cent. But he’s fine now – he’s in great form.”

Appleby plots big-race targets for his Derby heroes

Adayar and Hurricane Lane were both reported to be in top form as Charlie Appleby looks to future plans for his Derby-winning colts.

Adayar struck gold at Epsom, while his stablemate claimed the Irish equivalent – and could have the final Classic of the year at Doncaster as his next engagement.

For Adayar, it will be the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot next.

Appleby said: “Touch wood, all is well – they’re (both) in great form.

Charlie Appleby with the Derby trophy at Epsom
Charlie Appleby with the Derby trophy at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

“Adayar worked on Saturday and is building up towards the King George. He’s done very well for his break – he put a nice bit of condition on, so it’s time to start taking a bit back off again! I couldn’t be any happier with him.

“Hurricane Lane has come out of the Irish Derby very well. It looked a tough, hard race – and I thought he’d sleep for a few days afterwards, but he’s come out of the race bouncing.

“We’ll potentially go straight to the St Leger with him.”

Reflecting further, the Godolphin trainer said: “It’s been a great year.

Hurricane Lane edged Lone Eagle in a thrilling Irish Derby
Hurricane Lane edged Lone Eagle in a thrilling Irish Derby (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“We were always confident with the three-year-olds. We didn’t have a Group One-winning two-year-old last year, but we always felt with the pedigrees that they’d come into their own as three-year-olds – and they’ve not let us down.

“To have two Derby winners with two different horses is very unusual for our stable. It’s great for the team, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin.

“Like in any sport, when you have good players around you, it makes the yard tick away nicely.”

Al Aasy booked for King George date at Ascot

William Haggas is beginning to plan both Al Aasy and Mohaafeth’s Group One assignments next month following their contrasting fortunes at Epsom and Royal Ascot respectively.

Haggas reports the two Shadwell Estate colts have recovered well from their exertions, with Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse still in the mix for Mohaafeth and Al Aasy on course for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Al Aasy was last seen at Epsom, in the Coronation Cup, but failed by a neck to justify favouritism in search of his first Group One success after starting his campaign with two impressive Newbury victories at Group Three level.

He is set to try again at Ascot on July 24 – and while Mohaafeth also has a King George entry, he is likely to stick to 10 furlongs when he tries Group One company for the first time, potentially at Sandown on July 3.

It was a surprise to many that Al Aasy narrowly failed to cope with Pyledriver at Epsom, but Haggas confirmed the plan remains to head to Ascot in a month’s time – when he may well face the same opponent again, along with several more of the best middle-distance horses in training.

“I was a bit disappointed he didn’t win,” he said.

“But we all get disappointed if we don’t win. But he’s fine, and he’s going to go for the King George.

“There’ll be plenty of opposition in that.”

Mohaafeth in winning action at Royal Ascot
Mohaafeth in winning action at Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA)

The Newmarket trainer made a difficult call to miss the Derby with much-improved Mohaafeth when rain arrived and the ground went against him at Epsom – a decision which was vindicated by a commanding success for the son of Frankel on a sound surface in last week’s Hampton Court Stakes.

As for Mohaafeth’s Eclipse date, the Newmarket trainer added: “We hope so. It’s not set in stone – we’ll see how he is (nearer the time).

“He had a hard race at Ascot, so we’ll see.

“They both seem absolutely fine, they’re good.”

Bryony Frost salutes ‘one in a million’ Frodon after historic King George

Few partnerships in racing are as special as the one Bryony Frost enjoys with Frodon and the pair secured another landmark moment with victory in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton.

In a year which has seen Hollie Doyle continue to break new ground on the Flat, the 25-year-old secured two more records of her own with a tenacious two-and-a-quarter-length success aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained 20-1 chance in the Boxing Day highlight.

Not only did the result see Frost become the first female rider to win the historic Grade One contest, it also meant she passed Lucy Alexander’s total of 174 to become the winning-most female jump jockey in Britain – something she only realised she was on the brink of achieving on Christmas Day.

Frost said: “That’s a few boundaries crossed today and a few moulds broken.

“I’ve got a little book at home, dad (Grand National-winning jockey Jimmy Frost) used to do it. It’s a tiny little book and it has got the number of your rides, where it was, the horse, owner and trainer – from my very first pointing ride at Fleet Park, where I fell off at the last, to today.

“To put that in my book and to be thinking how many things we have achieved in one race is great.

“Hadden (Frost, brother) was on a WhatsApp video call (on Christmas Day) and he said ‘B’ do you realise you are one away from having the most winners as a female jumps jockey (in Britain).

“He said ‘imagine if you did it on Frodon in the King George?’. I just said ‘that doesn’t happen Hadden, stop being so silly’.

“I still can’t believe that me and Frodon can class ourselves a King George-winning pair. To me, though, I’ve won a King George on Frodon for Paul and the team and that is the big thing, regardless of the girl stuff, the winners and history.”

Despite Frodon disappointing at Aintree last time out in a race in which a number of fences were omitted, Frost – whose jubilation was perfectly captured when she exclaimed on ITV immediately afterwards: “We’ve just won the King George!” – was confident from an early stage a different result was in the offing.

She said: “Quite a few people said ‘how do you expect your chances will be?’ and I always say ‘I’m behind him 100 per cent’.

“This isn’t like Aintree. I brushed that under the carpet basically and I pretended like that never happened. I was coming straight from Cheltenham (when a handicap winner under a big weight in October) in my own head, as for a few reasons that (Aintree) didn’t happen for us.

“I thought about the gallop I set at Cheltenham and I weighed up what we did in the Grade Two last season and we tried putting that together and tried to set a gallop that he enjoyed. Once we crossed the sand and he pricked his ears going down to the first, I thought ‘we are on’.

“Santini was a small irritation for him as I couldn’t quite get the breathers I wanted to, but he came here in such rude health he just stuck his elbow out and kept moving forward the whole way.”

Bryony Frost and Frodon have an unbreakable bond
Bryony Frost and Frodon have an unbreakable bond (David Davies/PA)

Part of what makes Frodon and Frost so special is the understanding between them – something the rider, who picked up a two-day ban for careless riding, feels has been integral to the success they have enjoyed on the track.

She said: “I know his limits as well as he does mine. We know how each other think out there, and when it is going right and when it isn’t. When it is right we are right on and when it isn’t I look after him, like I did at Aintree. He is one in a million.

“Every horse has their differences. A horse like him is extremely special. I would struggle to find any animal or human that would mean what he does to me – he understands me and I understand him. I will probably get the mickey taken out of me for talking about a horse like that, comparing him as a human. I feel you shouldn’t be in the game if you didn’t love your horses and I adore him.”

Another step forward will be required for Frodon to triumph in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March – but having already become the first female jockey to ride a Grade One winner over jumps at the meeting, when the duo won last year’s Ryanair Chase, Frost feels anything is possible.

She said: “Kempton isn’t our favourite track. We’ve come to a different stomping ground, which in my opinion is the wrong way (right-handed). Cheltenham is his playground, he absolutely adores it.

“It’s a different race entirely, to me though why not? I feel like he is just loving his racing career, so why not give him the chance to tackle the big guns on the big stage. You wouldn’t question his stamina today, he has run away with me the whole way.

“If Paul says we are going for the Gold Cup, I will follow him blind.”

King George will be run behind closed doors

Kempton’s Ladbrokes Christmas Festival will be staged behind closed doors following the latest announcement from the Government on areas of England which are to move to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

While nearby London moved to Tier 3 earlier this week, with the Sunbury track being in Surrey – at that time in Tier 2 – a crowd of up to 2,000, albeit not racegoers from the capital itself, was still set to attend the showpiece fixture which features the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

However, the announcement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday that Surrey will now join Tier 3 means no crowd will be permitted.

A spokesperson for the track’s owners, Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “We know that racing fans will be disappointed to be missing out on some thrilling live action over the Christmas period, especially having only just been allowed to return to our venues in very limited numbers.

Clan Des Obeaux won last year's King George in front of packed grandstands
Clan Des Obeaux won last year’s King George in front of packed grandstands (Steven Paston/PA)

“However, we recognise we must all play our part in tackling this pandemic and look forward to welcoming racegoers back to our courses as soon as we’re able to do so.”

Ascot’s pre-Christmas fixture this weekend has also been affected by the latest developments.

A statement from the track read: “The Government confirmed today that the local authority in which Ascot is situated (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) will formally move into Tier 3 of Covid restrictions at midnight on Friday, December 18 which automatically means that the public cannot be admitted to Ascot on Saturday, December 19, day two of the December Racing Weekend.

Crowds will be absent from Ascot this weekend
Crowds will be absent from Ascot this weekend (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Ascot has consulted with Public Health England and its Safety Advisory Group, and the advice received is that it should not to be open to the public tomorrow, Friday, December 18, day one of the December Racing Weekend. Therefore, Ascot will not be admitting the public for Friday’s racing.

“Cases in the south of England have risen over 40% in the last week and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is now in a very high-risk area.

“Ascot is sorry that that it has to deliver this news to people looking forward to coming racing this weekend.”

Newbury’s Challow Hurdle card on December 29 is another which will be without racegoers over the festive period, as will the Tolworth Hurdle fixture at Sandown on January 2.

Newbury is another track forced to move behind closed doors
Newbury is another track forced to move behind closed doors (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Newbury tweeted: “Following the recent Government update regarding West Berkshire moving into Tier 3 from Saturday 19 December from 00.01hrs, communications will be issued to all those with a ticket or hospitality booking for MansionBet Challow Hurdle Day on Tuesday 29 December 2020.”

Sandown wrote: “Following the news that @Sandownpark is in a Tier 3 area of England, we are unable to welcome spectators to the racecourse.

“We will be in touch with anyone who has already purchased a ticket for a fixture now affected, and a refund will be automatically processed.

“We look forward to welcoming racegoers again when it’s safe and appropriate to do so.”

Hereford racecourse is now in Tier 1 one of coronavirus restrictions
Hereford racecourse is now in Tier 1 one of coronavirus restrictions (Tim Goode/PA)

A total of 15 tracks with winter fixtures will continue to have crowds under the current restrictions, including Cheltenham, who race next on New Year’s Day.

All of those courses are in Tier 2, with the exception of Hereford which has moved into a Tier 1 area and will now be allowed as many as 4,000 spectators at its next meeting, which is scheduled for January 2.

No courses that were in Tier 3 have moved to a lower tier.

Frodon set to be part of three-pronged King George bid for Nicholls

Frodon is on course to further strengthen trainer Paul Nicholls already enviable hand in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The 2019 Ryanair Chase winner is being readied to join Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the Grade One prize for the past two years, and fellow stablemate Cyrname, in the Boxing Day showpiece.

After successfully carrying top-weight in a handicap on his return at Cheltenham, the Paul Vogt-owned eight-year-old beat only one home back at Grade Two level in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree – a run Nicholls is keen to put a line through.

Nicholls said: “It was almost a waste of time going to Aintree as the same thing happened there last season in the Old Roan with the fences in the home straight taken out.

“He will run in the King George I would imagine next, as the owner is keen to have a go there.

“He took the race fine at Aintree fine, but he just threw his toys out of the pram when he got headed. It doesn’t suit him when those fences come out.

“I should have phoned up and said take him out as taking fences out for a horse like him that jumps well doesn’t help.”

A trip to Kempton is on the cards for Shloer Chase runner-up Duc Des Genievres and also Diego Du Charmil, with the Ditcheat handler earmarking the Grade Two Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase on December 27 for the pair.

He said: “This is the ideal race to run Duc Des Genievres and Diego Du Charmil will go there as well.

“Duc Des Genievres did surprise me how well he ran in the Shloer.

“He is bound to have come on for it and if the ground had been slightly better at Cheltenham on the last day he would have just about lasted home.”

Greaneteen will have a short break before being aimed at the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Greaneteen will have a short break before being aimed at the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Tingle Creek runner-up Greaneteen will bid to add to his Haldon Gold Cup success at Exeter by advancing his Queen Mother Champion Chase claims in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February.

Nicholls said: “The plan is to leave Greaneteen until the Game Spirit. He is only a six-year-old and he has already had a couple of hard races and I don’t want to overdo it with him.

“There is a lot to come from him yet and he will definitely be treated as a Queen Mother horse.

“He will keep on improving, he just wasn’t good enough on the day in the Tingle Creek but he is taking steps forwards all the time and slightly better ground would suit him.”