Westover aiming to emulate Juddmonte-owned greats in King George

Juddmonte’s green, white and pink silks are among the most recognisable in racing and the Ralph Beckett-trained Westover will aim to provide them with a fourth success in just six years in the prestigious King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

The remarkable Enable landed the race three times, in 2017, 2019 and 2020, to make her the most successful horse in the illustrious history of the midsummer showpiece.

Yet, as hard as it may seem to believe, Khalid Abdullah, founder of the operation, only saw his colours carried to victory by one other horse in the race in almost 40 years – the brilliant Dancing Brave in 1986.

That just goes to show the calibre of animal needed to win the contest and while only six go to post this year, all are Group One winners bar Emily Upjohn, who was beaten a hair’s breadth in the Oaks.

Westover won the Irish Derby last time out, Mishriff has claimed major races all over the globe, Torquator Tasso was a surprise victor in last year’s Arc and Aidan O’Brien’s Broome bounced back to form in the Hardwicke Stakes.

Enable (right) seen here winning her second King George in a thrilling race from Crystal Ocean in 2019
Enable (right) seen here winning her second King George in a thrilling race from Crystal Ocean in 2019 (Julian Herbert/PA)

Barry Mahon, general manager for Juddmonte, said: “I suppose there’s a mixture of nerves and excitement. It’s a top-class race and I think any one of the six is very capable of winning it.

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“Mishriff is obviously a very high-class horse, as is Emily Upjohn, as is Broome and all the rest of them. They’re all elite animals and it’s going to be a marvellous race.

“I think Ralph is very happy with Westover and physically he’s done well, so hopefully the three races close enough together won’t count against him.”

What always adds an extra frisson to the race is the Classic generation taking on their elders, yet last year’s Derby hero Adayar was the first three-year-old colt to win since Nathaniel in 2011.

“You never really know taking on the older horses for the first time and then you’ve the filly (Emily Upjohn) thrown in getting the weight allowance. It’s going to make for a great race, to be fair,” said Mahon.

Dancing Brave on his way to winning the 1986 King George, with his Derby conqueror Shahrastani back in fourth
Dancing Brave on his way to winning the 1986 King George, with his Derby conqueror Shahrastani back in fourth (PA)

For Beckett, it is the race which resonated most with him growing up as a child.

“I was there when Ela-Mana-Mou won in 1980, but the one that really left an impression was Shergar’s win the following year,” he said.

“I remember they applauded him into the paddock before the race, which is almost unheard of, and as a 10-year-old schoolboy you can imagine how huge an impression that made on me.

“We are all looking forward to it. At the start of the year none of us could have envisaged Westover getting quite this far, so this is a surprise to all of us, but he’s kept on getting better physically and that’s where all of the improvement has come from.”

Mishriff (right) was unlucky in the Eclipse at the start of the month
Mishriff (right) was unlucky in the Eclipse at the start of the month (Nigel French/PA)

John Gosden trained Enable for Juddmonte but along with son Thady this time finds himself in the opposing corner for the latest leg of the Qipco British Champions Series.

They field both Emily Upjohn, a late defector from the Irish Oaks due to travel difficulties, and Mishriff, a marginally unlucky second in the Eclipse recently.

Thady Gosden said: “It was frustrating to miss the Irish Oaks with Emily Upjohn. We are very fortunate that the King George is only a week later.

“Mishriff has come out of Sandown well, he ran a really good race there having been off the track since February.

“He’s been all round the world and has won proper races in four different countries. He won the Juddmonte impressively last year, he’s a very versatile horse with a great mind and plenty of speed as well. He’s in really good form at home.

“It’s a very competitive race, a small, elite field. You’ve got the Arc winner there and the Derby third. I’m sure it will be a tactical race, but they both seem well.”

Emily Upjohn (red) narrowly missed out in the Oaks to Tuesday
Emily Upjohn (red) narrowly missed out in the Oaks to Tuesday (John Walton/PA)

Speaking to Sky Sports Racing, Gosden senior said of Emily Upjohn: “In the end it proved impossible to get there (Curragh) unless you wanted to have a long journey and get off the plane and go straight into the paddock, which wasn’t going to be too clever.

“We fortunately left her in the King George on the basis that you never know. It obviously wasn’t Plan A, but it’s turned out to be Plan B and being a three-year-old filly, she gets the benefit of a stone from the older horses and 3lb from Westover.”

He added of Mishriff: “The Saudi Cup didn’t go very well for Mishriff this year. The jocks said it was riding a lot more like an American track and he got a lot of that in his face and down his mouth and I’m afraid he didn’t like it very much.

“We freshened him up and he ran a superb race in the Eclipse and finished strongly. We are aware that a mile and a quarter is probably his perfect distance, as he proved in the Juddmonte International, but we’ve been very happy with his preparation and he comes here a relatively fresh horse.”

There may still be those who feel there was a bit of a fluke about Torquator Tasso’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe win in October. But his form stands up to scrutiny and he got back to winning ways in Group Two company on his latest start.

“The horse didn’t run as a two-year-old, but he’s been getting better all the time. The decision to keep him in training as a five-year-old was made just three days after the Arc last year because the horse hadn’t run too many times in his life and seemed to be getting better,” said trainer Marcel Weiss.

“He has a very strong character but if you understand him and go with him, not against him, then he’s a beautiful horse and has a lot of confidence in himself.

“There are big horses in the race and we have a lot of respect for the three-year-olds and Mishriff, but if you want to win the Arc you have to beat these horses and he is good enough.”

Pyledriver is a Coronation Cup winner who was beaten just a length in the Hong Kong Vase for the team of William Muir and Chris Grassick.

“It’s a good race and it wants to be. It’s one of the clashes of the season and ever since I’ve been involved in racing, it’s one you look forward to because you get the best of both generations,” said Muir.

“We’ve had no problems since Epsom, we’re in good shape. He’s had a little spin around Newbury, just a quiet spin – not a gallop or anything stupid – just to stretch his legs on a track and that went really well. We’re very happy.”

Of Broome, who won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last season and landed the Hardwicke with some authority at the Royal meeting, O’Brien said: “We are happy with him. Everything has gone well since the last day and the plan was always to go back there.

“He had a lovely race the first day over a mile and a quarter and he stepped forward lovely from that and won well the last day.”

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