2019 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes tips – Star rating guide to Ascot’s famous Group One

A fantastic photo as Poet's Word and Crystal Ocean fight it out in the finish to last year's King George.

A fantastic photo as Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean fight it out in the finish to last year’s King George.

Our expert has taken a look through the ante-post betting for this prestigious Group One at Ascot and rated each of the prime contender’s chances of winning out of five stars.

The final Saturday in July marks a momentous day for flat racing fans, as many of the world’s top middle-distance horses take to the track to contest the historic King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Many of the sport’s finest flat racers have earned their sports in the annals of sporting history by claiming victory in this famous race, with the names of Mill Reef, Nijinsky and Brigadier Gerard shining brightly on the honour’s boards at the Berkshire venue.

A mouth-watering array of global superstars have been entered into this year’s King George and our expert has put together this star-rating guide – looking at the top ten contenders in detail and rating their chances of claiming victory out of five stars.

2019 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Star Rating Guide

Anthony Van Dyck

Aidan O’Brien’s colt fulfilled all the promise he showed as a juvenile with a superb triumph in the Epsom Derby back in June. Seamie Heffernan waited patiently while a wall of rivals amassed ahead of him as the runners came down the hill, pulling his mount bravely onto the inside rail when a gap opened up and Anthony Van Dyck stayed on strongly to claim Derby glory.

Another Classic looked there for the taking as O’Brien’s colt targeted the British and Irish Derby double at the Curragh. What followed was a complete and utter debacle. Ryan Moore, and the other jockeys on the fancied runners, allowed Padraig Beggy to open up a lead on 33/1 outsider, Sovereign which proved to be unassailable. Anthony Van Dyck stuck to his guns down the home straight to finish second, but it was a race that will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons.

Due to the fact that you could have thrown a blanket over the first five past the post, some suggested that this year’s Derby was far from a vintage renewal and the Irish Derby added further fuel to that fire. Three-year-olds also have a poor recent record in the King George, with superstars Enable, Nathaniel and Galileo being three of just five three-year-olds to have won this race since the turn of the Millennium. Anthony Van Dyck is sturdy stayer to be respected, but I don’t think he will be good enough.

Anthony Van Dyck Star Rating 4

Anthony Van Dyck (right) winning the Derby under Seamie Heffernan.

Anthony Van Dyck (right) winning the Derby under Seamie Heffernan.

Cheval Grand

It would be wonderful to see an Asian raider take part in this year’s King George, pushing the relevance of Saturday’s race onto a truly global scale. I highly doubt whether Cheval Grand – a seven-year-old who hasn’t won a race since November 2017 – has the quality to rub shoulders with the runners at the head of the market. It will be nice to see how he copes none-the-less.

Cheval Grand Star Rating 2.5

Crystal Ocean

As the heavens opened above Ascot in the build-up to the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, Crystal Ocean’s chances grew stronger and stronger. Frankie Dettori knew conditions were in his mount’s favour, positioning Crystal Ocean behind the leader for much of that ten-furlong trip before striking as the leaders entered the home straight. There was nothing Magical or Waldgeist could do to deny Crystal Ocean once he hit the front, leaving Dettori and Sir Michael Stoute celebrating another masterful training performance.

Stoute had waited a long time to see Crystal Ocean claim a maiden Group One win. That elusive moment almost arrived in last year’s renewal of the King George, where Crystal Ocean narrowly lost out to stablemate Poet’s Word in an absolute barnstormer of a finish. Stoute’s five-year-old finally produced a performance worthy of his lofty rating at Royal Ascot and the conditions of the King George will suit him down to the ground.

Only horses of the calibre of Poet’s Word and Cracksman have managed to defeat Crystal Ocean in the last couple of seasons. Sadly, for Sir Michael and his team, a genuine world-beater will be lining up in opposition in 2019.

Crystal Ocean Star Rating 4.5

Crystal Ocean and Frankie Dettori (centre) powering home to win the Prince Of Wales's Stakes.

Crystal Ocean and Frankie Dettori (centre) powering home to win the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

Defoe

Roger Varian decided a gelding operation was needed to help Defoe reach a new level during the summer. That tactic seemed to have backfired in the early weeks of the season, as his five-year-old had his colours lowered quite convincingly in the John Porter and the Jockey Club Stakes and Defoe was written off by many heading into the Coronation Cup.

Kew Gardens came with a withering run from the rear of the field and the favourite seemed to be home and hosed, only for Andrea Atzeni’s mount to burst from the pack and snatch an unlikely Group One win. Defoe managed to follow up in a messy renewal of the Hardwicke Stakes, proving he was worthy of a place in this field. Neither race looked particularly strong though and it will take a career-best effort for Defoe to even catch a place.

Defoe Star Rating 3.5

Enable

If Enable was ever going to get beaten, I thought it might have happened in the Coral-Eclipse earlier this month. Like last season, John Gosden had been forced to abandon a couple of earlier reappearances with his dual-Arc winner, with the fast ground over ten furlongs suiting fellow filly Magical a little more than Enable.

In hindsight, it was rather silly of me to doubt Gosden’s trailblazer. Frankie Dettori sat prominently on Enable, hitting the front with three furlongs to travel and she was more than good enough to repel many race-fit rivals and extend her unbeaten run into a terrific tenth race.

Enable would only have been around 85% to 90% fit that day, it was her first run on genuinely fast ground and ten furlongs is as short a trip as she’d like. She will have come on from that run and stepping back up to a mile-and-a-half can only be a positive. Enable is simply impossible to oppose – her price being the only, ever-so-slight, negative.

Enable Star Rating 5

Frankie salutes the fans as Enable crosses the line in the Coral-Eclipse.

Frankie salutes the fans as Enable crosses the line in the Coral-Eclipse.

Salouen

Sylvestre Kirk’s stable star ended a 15-race losing streak in some style on his reappearance, making all to claim victory in the Buckhounds Stakes here at Ascot. That win only came at Listed level though, and subsequent defeats in higher quality company proves he’s not quite up to this sort of level.

Salouen Star Rating 2.5

Waldgeist

Andre Fabre will have been delighted to see the rain thunder down on Ascot’s track as his raider took his chance on the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. Many were expecting Waldgeist to make a big impact after his impressive victory in the Prix Ganay in the spring, but Fabre’s charge was a little outclassed in the end, with his late finish only enough to place third.

A mile-and-a-half will certainly suit a strong stayer like Waldgeist more than the ten furlongs he tackled at the Royal meeting. Ascot, however, hasn’t proven to be a particularly happy hunting ground for Fabre’s five-year-old and he’s got plenty of lengths to find if he wants to topple either Enable or Crystal Ocean.

Waldgeist Star Rating 3.5

Full King George Star Rating Guide

ENABLE – 5

*

Crystal Ocean – 4.5

*

Anthony Van Dyck – 4

*

Defoe – 3.5

Waldgeist – 3.5

*

Cheval Grand – 2.5

Salouen – 2.5