Due off at 4.30pm, the Group One contest over 1m 4f of the Ascot course will spearhead Channel 4 Racing’s Saturday broadcast from the Berkshire venue, and the £1million plus first prize will be contested by a potential field of nine runners following the defection of ante-post favourite Postponed due to a poor scope.
Roger Varian could still be represented in the top-class contest by Ajman Bridge
), who runs in the same colours as Postponed and had initially been added to the contest to assume pacemaker duties for his more illustrious stablemate.
The Dubawi gelding is a decent sort, but he has been winless for the better part of three years since posting back-to-back successes on his first two career starts. Last seen beating only four rivals home behind Kinema in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes here in June during the Royal meeting, he has a mountain to climb on form if he is to cause an upset, and he is impossible to fancy in this contest taking a massive step up in class from the handicaps he is used to competing in.
Postponed had been due to defend his King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes crown, but has been ruled out of the race.
Sir Michael Stoute’s royal runner was winning for the third successive time when holding off the Aidan O’Brien-trained runner-up by a head; and the progressive son of Dubawi can on continue his upward curve and should go close again.
A three-time winner last term in handicap company, he made a winning seasonal return when taking the Group Three John Porter Stakes at Chelmsford in April, which he followed up with a narrow defeat of Wicklow Brave next time in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester.
All-out to hold off Highland Reel at Ascot last time, he may struggle to uphold that form having carried the runner-up across the track when hanging under pressure. Highland Reel’s rider also dropped his whip when challenging, which may have contributed to his narrow defeat.
Aidan O’Brien’s charge boasts plenty of strong Group One form, having been kept busy last term. The Galileo colt got off the mark when scoring at Goodwood, taking the Gordon Stakes with a ready defeat of Scottish; and he went on to win the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington on his next outing. Not beaten far behind Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on his next run, he chased home Winx in the Cox Plate prior to returning to the winners’ enclosure at Sha-Tin when beating Flintshire in the Hong Kong Vase.
The return to a quicker surface here can see him reverse Hardwicke form with Dartmouth, which came under softer conditions, and it would be disappointing if he weren’t capable of making the frame.
Dartmouth (right) and Highland Reel could fight out the finish again after clashing in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot.
Aidan O’Brien could also saddle one or both of Sir Isaac Newton
(20/1, Paddy Power
) and Shogun, with the former chasing a hat-trick of wins following successes in the Wolferton here in June, and following up at the Curragh later that month when beating Chemical Charge in a Group Three contest.
The Galileo colt is going the right way, and he is entitled to line up in this company. However, he has a bit to find with a couple of the principals on form. Shogun
(50/1, Sky Bet
) meanwhile has been disappointing this term since shaping encouragingly behind Stormy Antarctic in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket on his return.
Having failed to fire in the Irish 2000 Guineas, he was stepped up in trip for the Epsom Derby but beat only one home in the colts’ Classic; andthe Fastnet Rock colt again finished down the field in the Irish Derby behind Harzand.
He has plenty to do on form, and could well be utilised as a pacemaker for Highland Reel, who very much looks the pick of the O’Brien trio.
The lightly-raced Erupt
(11/2, William Hill
) is an interesting runner if Francis-Henri Graffard’s charge lines up for this contest.
The Dubawi colt won his first four starts last term, including the Grand Prix de Paris when beating Ampere, and ran creditably in defeat behind New Bay in the Prix Niel on his next start prior to finishing fifth to Golden Horn in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Having finished sixth in the Japan Cup, he shaped as if amiss when failing to beat a rival home behind A Shin Hikari in the Prix d’Isphahan at Chantilly in May, although left that form behind with a solid runner-up effort behind Silverwave at Saint-Cloud last time.
He could run a big race here, but there is a suspicion he may prefer some ease in the ground for him to produce his best.
) was progressive last term for Luca Cumani, winning the Jockey Club Stakes on his return, and claiming a German Group One contest prior to running creditable behind Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger.
The Dalakhani gelding hasn’t quite hit top form this time around despite a solid return at York in the Yorkshire Cup, finishing fifth behind Postponed at Epsom prior to running a shade disappointingly when last seen in the Racing Club Stakes where he finished a well-beaten fifth of seven runners behind Big Orange.
He can get involved if able to recapture his best although likely he won’t be quite good enough to win this.
Second Step is yet to show his best form this term. Western Hymn
) is a regular at this level, but he has been winless since beating Arab Spring to win the Group Three Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown last term.
John Gosden’s charge has been running consistently this term, reaching the frame in four of his five starts including chasing home Time Test back at Sandown in defence of his Brigadier Gerard crown in May; however, he beat only one home in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes where the softer ground might have scuppered his chances, and these faster conditions are likely to suit.
The High Chaparral gelding however needs to prove he gets this far, having largely campaigned over shorter in his career; and the step up in trip needs to unlock considerable improvement.
Gosden could also saddle Wings Of Desire
(9/2, William Hill
) who was foiled in his hat-trick attempt by Harzand when the Pivotal colt contested the Epsom Derby on the back of a Group Two win at York in the Dante Stakes.
With only four career starts under his belt, he remains thoroughly unexposed and it is a measure of how regarded he is at home that he is pitched into this contest with only limited experience compared to rivals.
Thanks to the three-year old allowance, he contests this race in receipt of plenty of weight from the principals, and while he needs to improve again he can post a solid effort and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the frame.
Wings Of Desire can run a big race, and the unexposed colt can make the frame.
With Postponed out of the race, the weekend highlight has been blown wide-open, and while Dartmouth and HIGHLAND REEL
(11/4, William Hill
) reoppose after the pair finished first and second in the Hardwicke Stakes, the latter can reverse the form of that run back on quicker ground.
The jockey on that occasion, Seamie Heffernan, dropped his whip at a crucial point in the race; while the winner carried the Aidan O’Brien-trained runner across the track when hanging under pressure.
While Sir Michael Stoute’s charge is progressive, the Ballydoyle runner boasts the better overall form of the pair, and he can give Postponed most to think about.
Erupt may prefer softer ground, but wings Of Desire in receipt of plenty of weight from the principal runners can also post a big performance to make the frame.
KING GEORGE VI AND QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES SELECTION