King George Stakes Review

horse-racing

The wondrous Triple Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey sustained a career ending injury last week – blowing the field wide open in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes at Ascot (3.50) on Saturday. But having lost the potential favourite in the race, where does the value now lie? Here’s my lowdown on the runners in with a chance.

Following St Nicholas Abbey’s withdrawal, appointed favourite for the race is Cirrus Des Aigles. Despite the French raiders solid credentials (rated no.2 in Europe behind Frankel the last 2 years) there appear to be too many negatives for me to justify backing it at such short odds (6/4 everywhere). Olivier Peslier has been on board the last 6 races yet Saturday sees Christophe Soumillon take the reins for the first time in way over a year. Although it’ll no doubt have benefitted from the ride, a relatively timid 5th place in it’s comeback race in France last month where it was comfortably beaten by Novellist didn’t leave me as excited as I’d hoped. This isn’t to say that Soumillon can’t reignite the horse’s best and add to its previous 16 wins – I won’t be backing against it – on it’s day it should blow the field away but for me there’s just about enough to take it on and look elsewhere.

Ektihaam (9/1 Betfair) has solid claims barring any repeat disasters like his last outing at Royal Ascot. A heavy slip whilst coming round the bend led to rider, Paul Hanagan, being unseated and any chance of taking the Hardwicke Stakes long gone. But a seriously impressive victory over course and distance the race prior (beating the late stalwart Thomas Chippendale) proves the class is there. My only niggling factor here is Dane O’Neill’s appointment – a perfectly competent jockey don’t get me wrong – but first choice rider Paul Hanagan has chosen to pass up the £600k+ first prize and ride elsewhere at York. Perhaps the horse’s chances aren’t quite as solid as hoped.

Having mentioned Novellist (11/2 Betfair) earlier it’s clear the ability to win is there and in Johnny Murtagh we trust! A 20% win rate at Ascot is easy on the eye and I wouldn’t bet against this horse going close again come Saturday. But for me this race might be contested by two in the shape of Trading Leather and Hillstar. The former looked bang on form when blowing Ruler of the World away in the Irish Derby last month. Taking on the fav at respectable odds of around 5/1 (Betfair) I think is a perfectly fair shout.

But for me Hillstar it has to be. This horse has done nothing but improve and I couldn’t help but be impressed when it chased down Battle of Marengo over C&D in the King Edward Stakes last month. With Ryan Moore you know you’re going to get a sublime ride and he’ll battle right to the line if called upon. Sir Michael Stoute’s record isn’t half bad for this race either and having not won it since 2010 I have a sneaky feeling we might be crowning our second King George of the week in his name. The 15/2 best odds at StanJames offer what I consider a seriously solid EW bet. That’s where my money will be.

For an outside punt the value has to be with Universal who will surely be in the mix come the final few strides. The 20/1 on offer at Bet365 is great value for anyone wanting to cheer on a horse that is consistently improving race by race. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it there or there abouts on the line.

Verdict

On his day Cirrus Des Aigles is a world beater but for me the odds are too short so looking elsewhere Hillstar offers the most impressive run last out and has the potential to go on from his last success. An EW bet looks very solid. Universal can sneak a place at long odds too.