King George Preview – How Will Love Fare Tackling Youngsters for the First Time?

The key question for any King George preview from Ascot is will it be an older horse who wins? Some of the best four-year-olds in training line up in the 1m 4f Group 1 feature contest this Saturday (15:35). Taking them on are the Epsom Derby winner and the gallant runner-up in the Irish equivalent. It’s a great race, so what analysis do experts offer on the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes?

King George ratings topper – Love

LOVE has the string of 1s next to her name in the form book which attracts bookmakers and punters alike. Unbeaten since her juvenile campaign, she represents four-time King George winning trainer Aidan O’Brien. Ballydoyle has only saddled the winner once since 2008, however.

Following wins in the 1000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks last season, Love stepped into open company and made a winning reappearance in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes here at Royal Ascot. She showed a gutsy attitude here over a quarter-mile shorter but still prevailed in game fashion over Breeders’ Cup heroine Audarya.

There is no doubt that Love’s best form is over 1m 4f, so the step back up in trip definitely suits. She is one of two in the King George rated 122, but gets the 3lb sex allowance putting here the nominal best in the race. All Love has to prove now is can she give weight away to three-year-olds?

Race terms mean she concedes 8lb to the younger colts. On adjusted ratings, they come out better than Love but haven’t achieved anything like as much on the track. The only question mark is handling the unfavourable conditions, but many believe she will do just that. It’s for that reason why Bet365 go 11/8 about Love following-up on her success at the royal meeting.

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Stable to follow – John Gosden

With five wins in the King George over the last decade, anything hailing from the John Gosden yard commands respect. There are a couple of caveats with that, however. The last three victories came courtesy of wonder-mare Enable. Stable representative MISHRIFF almost has to give weight all-round too, so terms don’t favour the globetrotting four-year-old.

His exploits overseas have been quite remarkable. Mishriff has proved versatile enough to win the 1m 1f Saudi Cup on dirt on reappearance, then follow-up when switched back to the turf and upped in trip to the 1m 4f of this in the Sheema Classic at Meydan. Following a break from those international successes, he tired late on in the Eclipse at Sandown and finished third.

Mishriff faced an impossible task of conceding weight to dual French Classic winner St Mark’s Basilica at the Esher venue earlier this month. The trouble is that the King George isn’t any easier. A whopping 11lb is the weight for age Mishriff concedes to the youngsters here, and he may be up against it as a result.

All of the Gosden winners of the King George have received some weight. Nathaniel and Taghrooda were three-year-olds when successful, while Enable always had a sex allowance on her side. That may be why Mishriff is a 9/1 chance with Coral for what would be an upset. As well as the welter burden of 9st 7lb, he also has stamina to prove against a field of British and Irish middle-distance runners.

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Unlucky loser – Lone Eagle

Martyn Meade and Frankie Dettori may still be kicking themselves over LONE EAGLE losing the Irish Derby. The jockey set sail for home just too early in the Curragh Classic last time out. Lone Eagle was overhauled close home by Dante Stakes hero Hurricane Lane and went down fighting by a neck.

He progressed as a juvenile and won the Group 3 Zetland Stakes at Newmarket. Lone Eagle also ran a fine fourth in a very strong renewal of the Sandown Classic Trial on reappearance. Each of the first four home have scored since. On that form, Lone Eagle has four lengths to find with Epsom Derby here Adayar but has also improved since.

Meade avoided the premier British Classic and instead went to the Irish Derby off the back of an impressive four-length victory over subsequent Bahrain Trophy winner Yibir om the Cocked Hat at Goodwood. Dettori kicked for home just a fraction too soon at The Curragh, so connections are out for compensation here.

They may well get it. There is less on official ratings, just 2lb, between Lone Eagle and Adayar than the Sandown Classic Trial suggests. It may indicate there is better value in siding with Meade’s runner over the Godolphin colt. Lone Eagle is thus 13/2 with BetVictor to go one better in the King George.

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Classic calibre – Adayar

Although powerful global owners Godolphin haven’t won this race since 2004, ADAYAR has obvious claims in this renewal. It would be a first for their retained trainer Charlie Appleby, yet all this three-year-old has demonstrated all the ability needed to win.

Adayar was the least fancied of Godolphin’s trip entered in the Epsom Derby, yet a late gamble developed and he justified that support. Ascot is not Epsom, yet Appleby has given his charge seven weeks to get over the exertions of landing the premier Classic.

Hurricane Lane, back in third, and Bolshoi Ballet, the seventh home, have since advertised the form with big wins in Ireland and the USA respectively. Using the former as a form marker, it is easy to see why the bookies side with Adayar and not Lone Eagle as the best of the three-year-olds.

Taking the weight for age into account, Adayar comes out as the best horse in the race off these terms. This is his first outing in open company, and the only real question mark is how he would handle a really sound surface. The weather forecast features thunderstorms, though, so Adayar may get a bit of ease in the ground and that’s why William Hill go 9/4 about his chances of following-up.

Course and distance winner – Wonderful Tonight

Another who needs the heavens to open is Hardwicke Stakes heroine WONDERFUL TONIGHT. A soft and heavy ground specialist, David Menuisier’s four-year-old filly is two from two over this trip at Ascot. Fine wins in the Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp and on British Champions Day here in the autumn marked her down as something special.

Connections were fortunate that rain hit the royal meeting and Wonderful Tonight got the going she relishes. Rain is forecast for Ascot throughout Saturday at the time of writing. It is simply a matter of how much falls and how much gets into the ground. Wonderful Tonight probably won’t take her chance if the ground doesn’t turn in her favour.

There is no obvious reason why re-opposing Hardwicke runner-up Broome, who went one better in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last time out, should reverse form with her. The third, sixth and seventh home, Hukum, Japan and Sir Ron Priestley, have all since won Group races at York, Leopardstown and Newmarket respectively too. That gives the form plenty of substance.

In the event that enough rain hits the track, odds of 14/1 with Unibet for Wonderful Tonight look a great each-way bet. Punters could back her knowing that Menuisier won’t risk her if the ground doesn’t get soft enough, but there is a chance of that happening. Wonderful Tonight certainly won’t be her current price if there is a deluge before the King George takes place.

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2021 King George shortlist

  • ***** Love
  • **** Adayar
  • **** Lone Eagle
  • E/W – Wonderful Tonight
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