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One of the premier middle-distance events of the Flat racing calendar, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes can be considered an all-ages Classic which provides the first major opportunity for the Classic generation to lock horns with their older counterparts over a 1m 4f trip.  We have expert King George tips and all the latest news ahead of the meeting

King George expert betting tips

Brian Healy takes an ante-post look at Saturday's Ascot highlight, the Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The highlight race of Ascot’s Saturday racecard, the Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes goes to post at 3.35pm as the fourth race of the afternoon.

Covered live as part of ITV Racing’s Saturday coverage, the top-class contest boasts a first prize in excess of £650,000 and at the five-day stage sixteen runners stand their ground to become the latest in a long line of winners which includes defending champion and 2016 race-winner Highland Reel, Postponed, Taghrooda, Nathaniel and a veritable who’s-who of top-class winners down through the years.


Much of the early interest surrounding the race will regard the participation of dual-Oaks heroine Enable (15/8, Ladbrokes) who would be bidding for a four-timer if John Gosden allows the daughter of Nathaniel – also a winner of this race in the past – to take her chance and line up against the older male horses.

She would be running as the sole filly in the race, and one of only three three-year olds to potentially line up; thus she would receive a generous weight concession here.

Her sole defeat to date came on her return to action at Newbury in April behind Shutter Speed, and she has since gone on to win the Cheshire Oaks as well as adding both the Epsom and Irish Oaks crowns to her winning record this term.

She ran out an impressive winner of the latter at the Curragh, barely coming off the bridle to score an easy five lengths success over Rain Goddess, with Ribblesdale Stakes winner Coronet back in fourth.

She boasts obvious claims if handling the significantly softer ground that is expected at Ascot on Saturday; but the ground was relatively soft at Epsom the time before having had a deluge just before racing and she coped well with conditions there so she is unlikely to be fazed by the ground.

Godolphin could be represented by as many as five in the Group One contest, with Jack Hobbs (11/2, Bet365) having come in for support in recent days following a spell of inclement weather which has turned the ground soft.

John Gosden’s charge acts well in the mud, and the five-year old remains relatively lightly raced for one of his age.

The 2015 Irish Derby winner raced only twice last term, finishing a good third on his second start here behind Almanzor in the Champion Stakes; and he resumed winning ways when beating Seventh Heaven at Meydan in March to claim the Group One Sheema Classic.

The Halling horse was probably in need of the run behind Highland Reel in the Prince Of Wale’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, where the shorter trip and quicker ground were both against him as he trailed in last of eight runners.

But back over a longer trip and with the ground having come right for him, he is entitled to leave that run behind and he boasts excellent claims.

Maverick Wave (150/1, William Hill) also hails from the Godolphin and John Gosden camp, but the Elusive Quality gelding looks outclassed in this company having finished only fourth in a Listed race at Ascot when last seen.

Benbatl (20/1, Bet365) was a good winner of the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating Orderofthegarter in good style, having run fifth in the Epsom Derby the time before. 

Saeed bin Suroor’s charge has to step up on that effort here, and while open to improvement and getting weight from his elders he may struggle taking on proven Group One performers of the calibre of Highland Reel and Jack Hobbs.

Hawkbill (20/1, Bet365) had Frontiersman behind when scoring at Newmarket during the July Meeting, landing the Racing Club Stakes by three-parts of a length.

Charlie Appleby’s charge showed plenty of determination to hold off that rival, who not for the first time looked awkward under pressure, and the Kitten’s Joy gelding is respected back on a softer surface which suits him so well.

Most of his winning form has come on softer ground, but he has work to do with Highland Reel on their run in the Coronation Cup back in June where Aidan O’Brien’s star had the Godolphin runner well-beaten.

Frontiersman (14/1, Paddy Power) completes the potential Godolphin quintet, and the classy Haydock handicap winner has acquitted himself since in top contests despite looking an awkward ride.

Beaten two lengths behind Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup, perhaps being given too much to do, he again conspired to get beaten behind Hawkbill at Newmarket where he hung badly left under pressure.
 
Cheekpieces he wore on that occasion didn’t appear to help, and it will be interesting to see if Charlie Appleby tries alternative headgear for this assignment; he may however find the ground too soft, and he has work to do on the balance of his form in any case.

My Dream Boat (50/1, Bet365) is proving hard to win with now since he beat Found at Ascot last June to win the Prince Of Wale’s Stakes.

Clive Cox has his string in good form, but the Lord Shanakill horse has work to do with a couple of these rivals if he’s to win this prize.

Third to Ulysees at Sandown in April, he has since been beaten behind Hawkbill at Newbury and Zarak at Saint-Cloud in France when sent to contest the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

While he is a tough customer at his best, he is probably a notch or two below this level now; while conditions will be ideal, he will likely find a couple too good again.

Ulysees (9/1, Sky Bet) meanwhile has quickly made up for lost time this term, and the Galileo colt has always been held in high regard by Sir Michael Stoute.

Fourth to Highland Reel at Santa Anita in November when contesting the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he made a winning seasonal debut when beating Deauville at Sandown in April to win the Gordon Richards Stakes.

Since then he has again seen the backside of Highland Reel in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, but he resumed winning ways with a gutsy display to land the Coral-Eclipse Stakes in what was a real battle to the line for the Galileo colt having travelled strongly into the race before being forced to scrap for the win by a dogged opponent.

A winner over this trip at Goodwood last term, his chances may depend on how he has come out of that Sandown victory as he had a hard race at the Esher track which may just have taken the edge off him, and this could come too soon.

The tough Permian (20/1, Paddy Power) could be turned out again by Mark Johnston in the wake of his narrow defeat behind Shakeel in the Grand Prix de Paris.

The Teofilo colt had earlier produced a solid effort at Ascot to beat Khalidi to win the King Edward VII Stakes, bouncing back in no uncertain terms from his lacklustre Epsom Derby run.

The Dante winner has had a tough spell of racing however, and this would be his eighth race since returning in April at Bath where he was beaten in a handicap. He’s been hugely progressive since, but this could be a case of going to the well once too often for the Johnston runner.

Sixties Song (66/1, Bet365) is a dual-Group One winner in Argentina, but the form of Alfredo Dassie’s charge is hard to quantify against the home contingent; he was last seen finishing third in the Gran Premio 25 de Mayo at San Isidro in heavy ground, and while potentially useful he does appear to face a stiff task against some proven top-class rivals.

Algometer (50/1, Sky Bet) has had his limitations exposed at Group level on more than one occasion, and David Simcock’s charge looks up against it here having found Hawkbill and Frontiersman too strong last time at Newmarket.

His Desert Encounter (20/1, Paddy Power) meanwhile looks progressive judged on his good performances in Listed company here and Goodwood earlier in the season, and his subsequent third to Ulysees at Sandown in the Coral-Eclipse where he was beaten three lengths.

The Halling gelding should appreciate the return to this longer trip, having just been beaten a half-length behind Second Step at Goodwood in the Tapster previously; while he has to step up on those efforts, he does handle soft ground well and a big run at double-digit odds wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Aidan O’Brien will typically send over a strong raiding team for this Group One prize headed by his tough and admirable HIGHLAND REEL (5/2, Sky Bet) who can successfully retain his crown.

The globe-trotting Galileo horse doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but he is a proven performer at the top level, and he consistently gives his running in all the top middle distance contests around the world as he evidenced when winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf prior to going close at Sha Tin in the Hong Kong Vase, finding only Satono Crown too strong.

His run behind Jack Hobbs at Meydan was quickly forgotten when the Ballydoyle runner produced excellent winning performances at Epsom and Ascot, and he looks sure to give another good account again from the front.

Better ground would undoubtedly help, as he’s run below his best before on softer conditions; but with warmer conditions forecast after a wet Wednesday, the ground could be perfect for the son of Galileo who should prove hard to beat again as he bids to add another Group One title to his impressive haul by defending the title he won in 2016.

Idaho (6/1, Sky Bet) meanwhile was unlucky not to have won the St Leger last term, slipping up in the straight and unseating Seamie Heffernan when travelling strongly. Having run better than the bare result at Woodbine in the Canadian International last October, he built markedly on a moderate return behind Highland Reel at Epsom to readily win the Hardwicke Stakes, beating Barsanti.

The Galileo colt is another powerful string to the Ballydoyle bow, and although he has a bit to find on form he is versatile with regards to ground conditions and he should be bang there again given he remains open to plenty of improvement. 

Johannes Vermeer (40/1, Bet365) and US Army Ranger complete the Ballydoyle quartet who could contest this race, but both have plenty on their respective plates in this contest.

The former won a French Group One race last term, beating Stormy Antarctic in the Grand Criterium; but his progress has stalled this term, and he beat only one home in his first three outings of this season – including behind Highland Reel – prior to resuming winning ways at the Curragh when beating Success Days to win the International Stakes.

That form isn’t good enough to win a contest of this nature, while he has to prove he gets this extra quarter-mile on his first try beyond ten furlongs. 

US Army Ranger (50/1, Paddy Power) meanwhile has also seen progress stall since his near miss behind Harzand in the 2016 Epsom Derby.

The Galileo colt is winless since scoring at Chester on his second start when landing the Chester Vase, and he spurned good opportunities to halt his arrest when beaten at Naas  in April in the Alleged Stakes, and again when caught late by Western Hymn at Chester in the Ormonde Stakes.

Never a factor behind stablemate Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup, he was stepped up significantly in trip for the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot where he finished an excellent third to Oriental Fox and he appeared suited by that test having stayed on well from a poor position.

He makes little appeal back at this considerably lesser trip, while he has plenty to find on the book based on those recent outings.

VERDICT


Enable would be a hugely interesting runner if John Gosden were to let the daughter of Nathaniel take her chance, and the triple Oaks winner – Cheshire, Epsom and Irish Oaks – would surely go close in a race where she would receive plenty of weight from her elders.

Ulysees and Permian have both had hard recent races, and the gloss may have been taken off both; while Jack Hobbs and Hawkbill lead a strong Godolphin challenge which also includes Benbatl and Frontiersman.

However, 2016 winner HIGHLAND REEL (5/2, Sky Bet) despite being a multiple Group One winner rarely receives the recognition his achievements warrant, and Aidan O’Brien’s charge can successfully defend his crown on the back of excellent efforts to win both the Coronation Cup and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes this term.

The Ballydoyle flagbearer has to show his best form on what could be ground softer than ideal; but with a dry spell forecast after Wednesday the conditions could come right for the tough-as-teak son of Galileo who should give another good account in defence of his title, and his chances will be enhanced by any drying of the ground.

He has proven his class time and again, and although he would face another big test in trying to give away a stone in weight to Enable if she runs, he has proven form in the book with most of the rest of the intended field that makes him a very strong contender to double up in this race.

If the ground remains soft, Desert Encounter could run a big race at a fancy price.

2017 KING GEORGE VI AND QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES SELECTION – HIGHLAND REEL (5/2, Sky Bet)

King George tips - Ascot's leading Group One contest

First run in 1951, the race has established itself firmly as one of the most prestigious middle-distance contests in the world, and the race often attracts a strong field of runners from around Europe to contest over the Ascot racecourse for a share of a prize fund in excess of £1million.

The race was an amalgamation of two separate races – the King George VI over two miles; and the Queen Elizabeth, which took place over the 1m 4f trip the race is run over today.

famous king george winners

The inaugural running of the big race took place under the moniker of the ‘King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Festival of British Stakes’ due to the Festival of Britain that was taking part the same year in London, and it was at the time the richest-ever horse race to be run on home soil. 

Three Classic winners as well as six French raiders descended on the Ascot track as a big field of 19 runners would face the starter, and it would be Supreme Court, who was partnered by Charlie Elliott, that would prevail over Zucchero to win the first ever running of the contest.

The name of the race was amended in 1975 to ‘King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes’, although ‘Diamond’ was dropped from the name following the 2006 renewal of the contest.

Throughout the race’s history, there have been many notable winners of the contest, and the race has been won by some of the biggest names in horse racing in a veritable who’s-who roll-call of winners that include the great Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, dual-winners Dahlia and Swain, Shergar and Dancing Brave amongst a star-studded list.

And amongst the list of winners of the race, there have been plenty of top-quality performances, including when 2013 winner Novellist became only the second German-trained winner of the race when beating Irish Derby hero Trading Leather by five lengths, and in so doing set a course record time.

Andreas Wohler’s charge was following up the win of compatriot, Danedream, who had won twelve months previously for Peter Schiergen.
Sir Michael Stoute meanwhile, having saddled a 1-2-3 in the 2009 renewal with Conduit beating stablemates Tartan Bearer and Ask, struck again the following year when the classy Harbinger in 2010 who romped to a record eleven-length winning margin, destroying a top-class field in the process in what would ultimately become his final career run having later suffered a career-ending leg injury as he prepared for a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The 2006 renewal threw up one of the race’s greatest finishes as Hurricane Run prevailed in a protracted battle to the line with Electrocutionist and Heart’s Cry with none of the trio giving any quarter as they fought out a thrilling finish. However, even that finish wasn’t quite up to the finish of the 1975 renewal where Dahlia was attempting to land a hat-trick of wins in the race.

However, the star French performer had to settle for third in what has been billed the ‘Race of the Century’ as Grundy and Bustino served up a pulsating clash with Peter Walwyn’s Grundy just edging the spoils.

It is debatable just how good Lammtarra could have been, but the star only managed four career starts, winning as a juvenile at Newbury prior to winning the 1995 Epsom Derby on his return to action. The Nijinsky colt went on to win the King George VI under Frankie Dettori, who was chalking up his first win in the race as the pair out-battled Pentire to win, before also adding the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to his record. 

Pentire would go one better the following year, beating Classic Cliché and race-favourite Shaamit in impressive style.

king george expert tips

King George Expert Tips

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Winners of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes often come from the four-year old age bracket, and it can pay to give particular attention to those who had contested the previous season’s Classics. 

Proven form at Group One level, allied with a win over the 1m 4f trip are key elements to finding the winner of this fantastic contest, while runners from the Sir Michael Stoute and Aidan O’Brien camp are particularly noteworthy.

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