King George Preview: Take on Enable at the prices

Japan was a game winner of the International Stakes at York last year.
Japan was a game winner of the International Stakes at York last year.

Nick Seddon previews Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, as Enable bids to win the race for a record third time. 

Regardless of the rather strange make-up of this year’s Flat season, it’s disappointing to see just four runners take their chance for one of the most prestigious races in the calendar, and some of the gloss is undoubtedly lost on Saturday’s feature with such a small field on offer. 

With that being said, it will at least be a high quality affair, bearing in mind that each of the four runners who line-up are all Group 1 winners, and Enable is the headline act as she bids to become the first horse to win this race three times. 

Of course, her ultimate aim is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the autumn, and everything she does en route to Paris will be a bonus. However, creating history at Ascot will undoubtedly be a juicy carrot for her connections, and she shaped well when second behind Ghaiyyath on reappearance in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown at the beginning of the month.

Enable was unable to reel in her front-running rival that day, though she shaped as though she retains the lion's share of her ability, and John Gosden was quick to point out that he felt that his star mare would improve for the outing. However, it is imperative to stress just how stiff a task she faces in this company as a six-year-old, and you have to go back to 2012 to find the last mare from her age group to win a British Group 1 contest - when Black Caviar won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. 

This is likely to be highly tactical, and for all that Enable is versatile enough to handle whatever pans out in-running, it's more than conceivable to think that she isn't quite the force of old, and she feels vulnerable as a heavily odds-on favourite in what's a particularly tight-knit affair. With that in mind, she's passed over at the prices, for all that she would be near impossible to oppose if producing the same effort which saw her win this last year. 

Standing in Enable's way, as he so often does, is Aidan O'Brien, and while he's yet to get the better of the star mare with one of his runners, he is responsible for each of the three in opposition - beginning with last year's Irish Derby winner Sovereign.

He's the main pace angle in the race having won from pillar to post at the Curragh last June, and we've seen him just once since, when third on reappearance in the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes over a mile and three quarters at the same track last month. He was handed a more patient ride that day, which is understandable on his first start over that trip, and he should strip fitter for that run here. He would be dangerous if allowed too much rope in-front under William Buick, but he would still likely need to produce a career best effort for win purposes, and the suspicion is that he will be ridden slightly more tactically than he was in the Irish Derby - as part of a three-pronged assault on the favourite.

Sovereign has the stamina to turn this into a real test, however, something which would suit Japan down to the ground. He has previous with Enable, having finished two places behind her in last year's Arc and a head behind her in the Eclipse, but he shaped well on both occasions, looking as though he'd be suited by the return to a mile and a half last time out. Ignoring his reappearance at Royal Ascot last month, when he was in need of the run, Japan has consistently shaped as though there could be more to come from him yet, and provided that this becomes a sufficient test, it looks worth siding with him at the prices to be staying on best in the closing stages. 

Completing the field is last year's Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who will be partnered by Oisin Murphy. He was two places in front of Japan at Epsom last year, and although he was unable to pick up another success in five subsequent starts that campaign, he took a firm step back in the right direction when second behind Ghaiyyath in last month's Coronation Cup at Newmarket. He was denied a clear run at a crucial stage when a below par fifth in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over course and distance last month, and although he undoubtedly has the talent to get involved, he has too much to prove to be trusted at present. It's no surprise that Ryan Moore has opted to ride Japan, and he's the percentage call at the prices to get the better of Enable at the third attempt.

Selection

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Ascot, Saturday 25th July - back Japan at 3/1

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
Japan silk

Japan

lost
Glorious Goodwood 2020
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