The Duke’s Weekend Review – King George

The likelihood of fast ground at Ascot for the feature King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes suggests that Cracksman may give it a miss.

Anthony Oppenheimer who owns the star colt suggests he’s a real doubt unless there is a big thunderstorm that douses the Berkshire track in dollops of water. He’s apparently been working really well, so if he does turn up he could run a massive race, but he is almost certainly a better horse on ground with some give in it.

Speaking of which, his stablemate Enable is yet to get going this season and it’s worth taking a look at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe market for antepost value. Whoever wins this weekend could well shorten up in price for Europe’s biggest race.

If Cracksman does skip the race then attention turns to Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean. The latter has yet to strike at the top level but has been running well including victory in the Hardwicke Stakes at the Ascot course last time. Poet’s Word would be the obvious choice based on his win in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes where he was a comprehensive winner over Cracksman. He needs to settle well and be cleverly ridden as a mile and a half is the limits of his stamina.

Hydrangea would prefer some juice in the surface but she seems a big price for a Group 1 winner who hasn’t been raced much this season. I don’t think the Irish Derby was much of a race but Rostropovich is dangerous if allowed an uncontested lead so if the eight remain there may be a bit of each-way interest.

Coronet has run well on quick ground at Ascot before but this is probably a bit tougher, while Desert Encounter has good course & distance form in lower grades at this track. I could see a surprise in this race but Poet’s Word would appear the most logical winner.

Over at York, the Sky Bet York Stakes can go the way of Elarqam. He was fourth in the 2000 Guineas and on that run alone he would merit big claims. He was only sixth in the Irish equivalent but he is capable of much better and any price that is odds-against in this very winnable race should probably be snapped up.

Back at Ascot and in the Gigaset International Stakes, Spanish City has been in decent form and he remains on a mark that could see him get seriously competitive over a trip and ground that he relishes. Ripp Orf is another who has been running well including good track form earlier in the year, while the likes of Via Serendipity and Sabador have relevant course form that puts them in the picture.

Burnt Sugar must have a chance on his Bunbury Cup win off a similar mark but he doesn’t have the best record at Ascot which is offputting. I do think there is a lot of value in Il Primo Sole based on his Britannia Stakes fifth. He would have finished runner-up had the line come a hundred yards sooner and on that basis this distance looks perfect for him. He’s on a nice mark too. We’ll back two then in this big handicap, Spanish City and Il Primo Sole. Best of luck and have a great weekend.

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