I love the King George. The list of winners of this race over the years is like a whose who of horse racing. In the 80’s we had Dancing Brave, Reference Point and Nashwan proving victorious. In the 90’s we had Generous, St Jovite, Lammtara, while Swain won it twice. The hairs still stand on the back of my neck when I watch Montjeu make the rest look like sellers in 2000, and who could forget Galileo battling back to beat Fantastic Light in 2001. The King George of recent years has lost some of its prestige however. The top French colts no longer come, and even the top UK and Irish 3 year old’s have often skipped the race. There’s no doubting that this years race is below par even by recent standards, with only one horse rated 120+ in the race.
The race as a whole may be lacking strength in depth, but we do have at least one world class horse lining up, in the admirable consistent gelding, Cirrus Des Aigles. Indeed we are lucky he is a gelding, or he would probably follow the path most French trained horses take, and have a mid season break with the Arc in mind. Geldings are not allowed run in the Arc and that is to the benefit of races like the King George. Cirrus Des Aigles is now a 7 year old and while he always ran well, it wasn’t until as a 5 year old that he had his breakthrough win at the top level. That was a 3/4l beating of So You Think in the Champion Stakes run at Ascot. Since then he has gone on to prove himself a top performer with further group 1 wins in Meydan, and twice at Longchamp, but it was back at Ascot were he put up what I think was his best performance. He ran the great Frankel to just under 2l in last seasons Champion Stakes, granted the trip was as far as Frankel wanted on soft ground, but he had nothing else in hand and Cirrus gave him far more of a race than any other horse he ever met.
Cirrus Des Aigles had an injury over the winter and didn’t reappear until the last week of June in a group 1 at Saint Cloud. He traveled with his usual enthusiasm and took it up off the home bend. He didn’t quicken away as he can though, and it soon became apparent he had a fight on his hands. Once tomorrow’s rival, Novellist headed him, Cirrus jockey gave him an easy enough time, and he faded late to finish 5th, beaten just over 4l. Considering his trainer said he was only 60% fit, and he ran like a horse who needed it, that was perfectly satisfactory. There is no reason to doubt her when she says he’s come on loads for the run. The only slight negative regarding his chance is the trip, I do think he may be fractionally better over 10 furlongs. He has won a group one in Dubai over 12 and also won a group 2 over 13 furlongs on heavy ground so he has no problem with the trip, and it could be the only reason he has slightly better form over 10 furlongs, is that he’s had more opportunities at it. In any case his 12 furlong form is still better than anything else in this field has.
Novellist is a steadily progressive 4 year old trained in Germany and he won his second group 1 race when winning the race at Saint Cloud that Cirrus finished 5th in. It was probably a career best for him, and he could come on again, but if Cirrus Des Aigles is back at his best he’d need to improve a good bit on a 1 1/4l beating of Dunaden to give him a race. The ground is currently good at Ascot with more showers forecast, if they didn’t come though and the ground was to dry out, it would be a worry as he’s never ran on good to firm, and his best efforts have come with some cut.
Trading Leather stepped up to 12 furlongs for the first time last time, and proved well suited by it, staying on strongly to win the Irish Derby by 1 3/4l from Galileo Rock. With the first two from Epsom disappointing in that race, the form is very dubious. The 3rd horse was the previously moderate looking Festive Cheer, and the 4th was a 66/1 shot only entered as a pacemaker, and was beaten off 95 in a Ascot handicap on his previous start. Trading Leather is a good tough horse, but if Cirrus Des Aigles is near his best he’d be unlikely to get him off the bridle.
Hillstar is a typically progressive Michael Stoute horse. He got beaten in his first 2 starts this season in handicaps, but showed improved form when winning the King Edward at Ascot. His immediate victim that day was Battle Of Marengo who had a 3lb penalty, and has since got well beaten in a group 1 in France. Hillstar beat him 1l but didn’t have any extra in hand, and while he should come on again, he’d need to improve hugely to win this. I’d be surprised if Battle of Marengo was good enough to win at even group 3 level against older horses.
Ektihaam is 5th favourite for this, but you could make a case for having him shorter than the two 3 year olds. His 3rd to Al Kazeem at Sandown and subsequent 6l beating of Thomas Chippendale is surely at least as good as anything Hillstar or Trading Leather have done. He also looks to be progressing as a 4 year old. He does have to prove there was no ill effects from his unfortunate slip at Ascot last time in the Hardwicke, when he appeared to be going plenty fast enough in front and might want to take in handier tomorrow.
Universal is a tough consistent horse, who has improved this season. He was only 3rd in the Hardwicke though, and despite a win in a group 2 at Newmarket last time he would need to find a good bit more to win this. Very Nice Name was running in Qatar prior to a 3 1/2l, 3rd to St Nicholas Abbey at Meydan in March. On that run he probably has some sort of a place chance, given the lack of depth to this, but St Nic was beaten cozily by Cirrus Des Aigles in that race the previous year, and that was nowhere near Cirrus’s bets form either. In short he’d need to find quite a bit to trouble the favourite. Red Cadeaux is an unlikely winner but if ridden for a place, he could easily stay on past a few others who tried to win the race before crying enough.
This a pretty simple really, you don’t often get 13/8 on a horse with as much in hand as Cirrus Des Aigles has, yet that is the standout price that