This article was all ready to go, looking ahead to a Postponed demolition job come Saturday late afternoon. The news broken this morning that Postponed will not be running due to a respiratory infection has created a wide-open Group 1 Classic, with a few connections of top horses (Godolophin *cough*) wishing they had supplemented their trump cards. We can’t see Ajman Bridge running either now, leaving a field of eight we suspect. Can Dartmouth do it for the Queen? Will Aiden O’Brien continue to have a say in these big races? Or can John Gosden win the King George a year after Golden Horn was pulled out a matter of hours beforehand? There is a real sense of the unknown around the race now and anyone suggesting they are confident in a selection is lying to you. Here’s a look ahead to the King George, with a lowdown on the runners and riders.
- AJMAN BRIDGE (R Varian) 66/1
We don’t expect Ajman Bridge to run now, but nothing has been said yet and we will continue as though Roger Varian will have one runner.If connections do wish to continue it would be a surprise as the horse is way out of his depth and would be towing other horses round for no apparent reasons. He is not a bad horse in his right, with some decent form in hot handicaps, but is far from a G1 horse. He gets the trip comfortably, but unless the race gets extremely messy and the main contenders suffer hugely then Ajman Bridge will do very well to be within eight lengths of the first past the post.
2. DARTMOUTH (M Stoute) 2/1
The Queen’s Royal Ascot hero and a real tough and progressive colt that has come on vastly in 2016 is now favourite to bring in a G1 in the famous royal colours on Saturday. He won bravely at Chester before surprising many in the Hardwicke to win at 10/1. He is in top form and the 12F trip seems perfect for his galloping style. At 7/1 before Postponed was withdrawn, he was easy to back. At 7/4-2/1, it is a completely different story and whether punters will be as willing to part with their cash for the Queen’s horse is doubtful in our eyes and the value is perhaps now elsewhere.
3. ERUPT (FH Graffard) 5/1
Erupt was one of the hottest 3YOs last year in France, before slightly losing his way after being heavily campaigned and travelled towards the back end of his season. He looks to have bounced back to some vein of form last time out and will have support on Saturday, based around his 3YO performances and what looks like some form of return. He was fifth in the Arc, which has to be hugely respected and although good ground seems ideal, there will be little complaint at the quick ground expected at Ascot. News of the continued watering at Ascot will encourage connections and the news that Postponed is out, will have them licking their lips. Is 7/2 too short? Perhaps. Once the market has settled down, we can see this drifting out slightly.
4. HIGHLAND REEL (AP O’Brien) 5/2
Now second-favourite, the first of the Ballydoyle triplet has never quite cut it at the top – especially on these shores – and has ground to make up with Dartmouth. He is certainly a battle-hardened horse and the Irish will be hopeful he can deliver his best, which would certainly put him in the mix come the final stages. The quick ground is no problem and a repeat of his performance in Hong Kong could see him home on Saturday. The issue is that a run of this nature hasn’t been seen since and although his Royal Ascot run was an improvement on efforts in 2016, we know better is still required.
6. SECOND STEP (L Cumani) 33/1
It must be a strange feeling for Luca Cumani heading to the King George with Second Step, rather than the once hot favourite Postponed. But todays news will be greeted with mixed emotions for the Italian as it gives him a much better chance in the race, whilst we’re sure he would not want his former star to suffer a long-term problem. Whatever went on, went on between him and Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum and we move on. Second Step’s form is not up to scratch for a race like this, but connections must believe there is a run at this level in him with the continued high-class entries.He was seven lengths behind Postponed at Epsom and only beat two home in the G2 Yorkshire Cup beforehand. He should be fresh however, and is certainly overdue a big run; and a big run is what’s needed to get competitive come the final furlongs.
7. SIR ISAAC NEWTON (AP O’Brien) 20/1 – HA’s Best Bet
O’Brien was suggesting that Highland Reel would be there only runner prior to this week, but it is increasingly looking as if all three will take their chance and the news of Postponed’s withdrawal will only increase this chance. Sir Isaac is a beautifully bred horse that came with a hefty price tag, and he is beginning to repay some of this faith put in him, all be it at a lower level. He won at Royal Ascot and followed up quickly at the Curragh to suggest that this was not simply a one off. At the current prices we believe he is certainly worth an EW bet, if his sudden resurgence continues he can have a say in this open G1. The only concern could be the ground, but Aiden O’Brien always has a say in these big races and we can’t see that changing come Saturday afternoon.
8. WESTERN HYMN (J Gosden) 20/1
A consistent runner that is never quite good enough on this big stage, and is likely to once again be out his depth. Connections will hope the extra two furlongs may bring on some improvement. The G3 runs have all shown promise, but ultimately this is well short of what will be required on Saturday to be competitive. We would not be expecting much and John Gosden will be more reliant on his other runner as his best chance of G1 glory.
9. SHOGUN (AP O’Brien) 50/1
The last of the Ballydoyle triplet and perhaps most out of his depth based on recent shows. 12F hasn’t produced anything as of yet and in the Derby at Epsom he was second last, followed by a dissapointing seventh at the Curragh. The one positive to rely on is that all his better runs have been on quicker ground and this is a guarantee on Saturday. He is 50/1 for a reason and it will take a stark improvement to come close at Ascot.
10. WINGS OF DESIRE (J Gosden) 4/1
Connections were quietly pleased with his run in the Derby and quickly stated that the undulations at Epsom did not suit the horse. The flatter tack at Ascot works better and he has had time off to learn and improve. Gosden has always said he was a horse for later in the year and people forget that he only made his debut in April. the ground will suit and Dettori will want to be close to the pace, not letting his rivals get first run. He is certainly an interesting and somewhat unexposed runner making him hard to judge in comparison with many of the other runners. It is also important to note that he gets a hefty weight allowance, as does Shogun, for being one of the the two 3YOs in the race.