A Preview of the King George Weekend: Where History is Always in the Making
July 27, 2017
If you are new to the King George VI weekend at Ascot, then the chances are that you are new to horse racing as a whole.
This prestigious two-day event, which takes place every July at Britain’s most iconic racetrack, is set to commence tomorrow and will close with the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday, 29th. Undoubtedly one of the most memorable entries into the UK’s racing calendar, this years’ event is set to be more keenly-contested than ever while fans from across the UK will flock in record numbers to the famous, Ascot venue.
In this post, we will explore an event that is steeped in history, while also looking at which runners and riders will prevail this year.
A Look Back in Time: A Truly Prestigious Event
This event has been a fixture of the British racing calendar ever since 1951, when the previously separate King George VI and Queen Elizabeth races were amalgamated to create a single entity. It combined the best of both races to establish a truly prestigious and popular event, which is run over a distance of one mile and four furlongs (or 2,414 metres to you an me) and is open to thoroughbreds aged three or older.
In the 66 years since its inception, the race has become the single most prestigious in the open age and one that hosts runners that have achieved the highest levels of acclaim. This has led to a number of truly stunning battles down the years, with the gruelling, 1975 race to the finish between Grundy and Bustino often described as the ‘race of the century’. Many previous winners have gone onto enjoy some successful careers at stud, while others have competed with honour in similarly high profile meeting such as the Arc De Triomphe.
The history of this race and its standing is important, not least because it serves as the focal point for the highly anticipated King George IV weekend. Over time, this event has built on the reputation and popularity of the race to create a two-day meeting to savour, with this years’ set to break all existing records in terms of attendance. In fact, the forthcoming Saturday promises to be the busiest day of the year for British racecourses, with an estimated 130,000 punters expected to be out in force across meeting at Ascot, Chester, Lingfield Park, Newcastle, Newmarket, Salisbury and York.
Who Are the Runners and Racers to Look Out for This Year
The majority of these fans will be turning out at Ascot, however, so it is only right that we focus our attentions on this highly-anticipated event. The place to start is undoubtedly the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which will take place on Saturday and is set to commence at around 15:35. It has been confirmed that 10 runners will compete in this years’ race, with a prize fund of in excess of £1 million available and the winner set to walk away with the staggering sum of £652.165.
In some quarters, the race has been described as a straight shoot-out between dual Oaks winner Enable and last years’ winner Highland Reel. These thoroughbreds remain the two obvious King George favourites, with Enable priced at 5/6 with most bookmakers and the imperious Highland Reel available at the more generous odds of 4/1 with some. There are good reasons why these horses have been so heavily backed by betters, not least because they shine like beacons in compact if enduringly competitive field.
Not only this, but Enable has the type of pedigree that tends to define King George winners from mere competitors. His dual Oaks triumph was particularly impressive, for example, while trainer Josh Gosden also has a history of winning this race with younger fillies. In fact, he triumphed impressively with the three-year-old Taghrooda back in 2014, while he retains the skill, know-how and resources to emulate this feat with the aptly-named Enable.
The young filly will also get at least a stone from the older colts on show, giving her a potentially decisive advantage of the one mile, four furlong course. She has also proven that she can handle any conditions that she encounters on the day, making her the deserved favourite in a race full of talented and elite-level runners.
What kind of threat will be posed by the lurking Highland Reel, however? It may be initially tempting to dismiss the experience thoroughbred, particularly with relatively distant odds of 4/1 in a 10-strong field. This does a disservice to the pedigree, reputation and recent form of this horse, however, not to mention that fact that he earned the distinction of winning the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes last year.
This tough and seasoned horse has already claimed two impressive Group One wins this summer alone, adding to the four that he has won in his career to date.
These attributes and accomplishments are certainly enough to overcome any weight disadvantages that may hinder Highland Reel, although his chances of achieving this will depend heavily on the conditions. Soft ground could certainly present a significant challenge to the Aidan O’Brien trained globetrotter, for example, as he is known to perform better in firmer conditions that allow for far greater speed across the ground.
The Last Word
You would think that it would be relatively easy to call this race given the size of the field, but the competitive nature of the runners and the sheer quality of Enable and Highland Reel in particular complicates matters significantly. This is without considering other runners such as Idaho (which is another from the O’Brien stable) and the Gosden trained Jack Hobbs, both of which offer genuine outside value at 10/1 and 9/2 respectively.
One thing is for sure; however, and this is that we are sure to see another stunning installation of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes that will go to the wire. After all, this is a unique and prestigious meeting where history is always in the making, and this years’ runner will be the latest to stake their own claims for glory.