Watch live racing from Ascot and York live on Channel 4 from 1.50pm on Saturday
Sir Michael Stoute has landed the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes on five previous occasions, and the master of Freemason Lodge is responsible for the ante-post favourite for this year’s renewal at Ascot on Saturday, Telescope.
Though he was seen out just three times in 2013 due to an injury, the Galileo colt has always been held in the highest regard by connections and showed us all why when careering away from his rivals in the Hardwicke Stakes at last month’s royal meeting.
Like many of his stable’s middle-distance performers down the years, Telescope appears to maturing like a fine wine but, though he was undeniably impressive in the Hardwicke, the top-priced 9/4 currently on offer about the four-year-old is too skinny for my liking.
In recent days the Investec Oaks heroine Taghrooda has been the one for money, despite the fact that no filly has won the King George since Time Charter prevailed in 1983. John Gosden’s charge looked the part at Epsom, but can she successfully mix it with the boys and her elders this weekend?
In all probability, she can. Indeed, I’d take Taghrooda at 11/4 (available with BetVictor and Sky Bet) over Telescope (9/4 with most firms) any day of the week, but the recommendation is MAGICIAN, who rates tremendous value at 11/2 with bet365 in my opinion.
Magician produced the best performance of his career to date when getting up close home to beat The Fugue in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November, the sole previous occasion on which he has contested a strongly-run race over a mile-and-a-half on fast ground.
All of those factors will be in place for the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt on Saturday, and his form is arguably the strongest on offer. Indeed, he got much closer to the fast-improving Noble Mission at The Curragh in May than Telescope has managed on the two occasions that he’s faced Lady Cecil’s charge this season.
Eagle Top was mightily impressive when landing the King Edward VII Stakes at last month’s royal meeting here and he is feared most of the remainder, with Eclipse hero Mukhadram unproven over this trip and French challenger Flintshire may likely to find conditions too lively.
While the King George is undoubtedly the most prestigious race of the day, the most competitive is the Longine International Stakes. This ultra-valuable handicap is a devilishly difficult puzzle to solve, but the one to be on could be the Luca Cumani-trained AYAAR, who is generally a 10/1 chance.
I backed the four-year-old in the Royal Hunt Cup last month and I’m convinced that he was ultimately the best horse in the race. Ayaar was starting to make stealthy headway before running into a cul-de-sac just over a furlong out in that cavalry charge and, under the circumstances, did well to finish fifth, beaten just three lengths.
The Rock of Gibraltar colt is dropping back to 7f here and will need luck in running, but the pace will be frenetic from flag-fall and, providing he gets the breaks when he needs them, Frankie Dettori can steer him to victory this time. Recent York winner Bronze Angel is feared most.
Over at York, the Sky Bet Dash is a typically red-hot sprint handicap on the Knavesmire. You really would be hard-pushed to rule any of these out with any great confidence, but the one with the most striking potential is undeniably MUTHMIR.
William Haggas’ charge was a shade disappointing on his handicap debut at Newmarket in August, his final run of 2013, but he was firmly back on track when runner-up on his seasonal reappearance at Newcastle last month. He may well have won had he not raced so keenly in the early stages and, with further improvement on the cards, he makes most appeal.
Saturday racing tips:
2.20 Short Squeeze
2.55 Long John