Ascot stages the £1.25 million Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (3.40pm) over a mile and a half on Saturday, 28th July.
Aidan O’Brien, the reigning champion trainer in both Ireland and Britain, who has landed the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes four times, most recently with Highland Reel in 2016, has five contenders for the 2018 running of the race.
Among the O’Brien quintet are the four-year-old Hydrangea, a course and distance winner in the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day in October and fellow four-year-old Cliffs Of Moher, who ran twice at Royal Ascot, finishing fourth to Poet’s Word in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and third to Crystal Ocean in the Hardwicke Stakes.
O’Brien’s other remaining entries, all three-year-olds, are headed by Kew Gardens, successful in the 14-furlong Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot before recording a first Group 1 success in the mile and a half Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp on 14th July.
The Co. Tipperary-based trainer has been delighted with the colt’s progression this season and is hopeful of a good performance on Saturday:
“Kew Gardens is very well. He hasn’t done much since his victory at Longchamp, but we were delighted with that performance. He won nicely at Royal Ascot the time before in the Queen’s Vase (1m 6f) and enjoyed the drop back in trip when winning at Longchamp.
“We were very happy with him before the Derby and that was a little bit of a blip for him. However, that wasn’t his true running and, when he went to Ascot; we always thought he would stay.”
Queen’s Vase third Nelson and Rostropovich, last seen when the half-length runner-up in the Group 1 Irish Derby, complete the O’Brien-trained quintet.
Regarding the latter’s participation, O’Brien commented: “Rostropovich could be a possible runner. He is in good form at home and ran well in the Irish Derby.”
He continued: “Nelson ran well at Royal Ascot before finishing behind Kew Gardens at Longchamp where he would have preferred a stiffer track.”
Commenting on his other entries the Master of Ballydoyle stated:
“Hydrangea is also entered and would be stepping back up to a mile and a half as well. Cliffs Of Moher is a horse we’ve been very happy with him. We feel the step back up to 12 furlongs is in his compass. They will all do their final pieces of work tomorrow and be blood tested and scoped. If all those are clear, then we can make a definite decision. We could have two or three runners in the race – that is what we are thinking at the moment.”
Aidan O’Brien’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winners were Galileo (2001), Dylan Thomas (2007), Duke Of Marmalade (2008) and Highland Reel (2016).
First run in 1951, the prestigious contest has a tremendous history with legendary performers including Ribot, Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Dahlia, The Minstrel, Troy, Shergar, Dancing Brave, Lammtarra, Montjeu, Galileo and Enable all starring on the roll of honour.