Welcome to our new column from Scott Armstrong of The Sportsman, who will be providing a rundown of all the best weekend racing action every Friday. He will also return each Monday with a follow-up analysis of how the weekend unfolded – look out for that on the SBC Blog.
Scott is a proven racing expert, thanks to his work at http://www.thesportsman.org.uk/ and has a keen eye for racing value, especially in the big feature races.
The Betfair King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes tomorrow hosts a field of top class middle-distance runners battling it out for the £567,000 prize.
Only five runners line up with Debussy set to be employed as a pacemaker so that narrows the field to four ‘live’ runners to peruse. Nathaniel has been supplemented to the tune of £75,000 to run and John Gosden is not one to throw money at forlorn causes. However Nathaniel would need to step up on previous efforts despite his three year old weight allowance, to take the crown having never competed in a Group 1 before. The stats here are that 80% of the last ten winners have all previously won a Group 1.The shrewd Gosden will also know even if Nathaniel finishes only third the supplementary fee will be covered with an 80k gain.
By a process of elimination that leaves the most likely winner belonging to the front three in the betting market, Workforce, St Nicholas Abbey and Rewilding.
It’s notable of that trio Aidan O’Brien who trains St Nicholas Abbey and Michael Stoute who handles Workforce have trained the last four winners of the race between them. It’s also to be observed that the front two horses in the betting market have won nine of the last ten King George’s between them.
Third favourite Rewilding is not without a decent chance at odds of 7-2 as I write this and may attract each way backers with the Godolphin yard currently in decent form. Rewilding likes Ascot which is a big plus given the difficult nature of the track, he also runs at his favoured distance and is fancied by connections though softer going would be a disadvantage. However, Godolphin’s representative has also given the impression he is at his best when fresh and it could be a negative that the King George is run only five weeks after his Prince of Wales Stakes exertions.
Workforce or St Nicholas Abbey?
We therefore turn to the two biggest guns in the race and ask the question, Workforce or St Nicholas Abbey?
St Nicholas Abbey has been one of the most hyped horses of the past decade, even being compared to the imperious Sea The Stars as a juvenile. However, I couldn’t open the wallet on him at the biggest odds of around 11-4 given the opposing talent on show. St Nicholas Abbey has bounced back this term but questions must be asked regarding the standard of opposition at Chester and though his win in the Coronation Cup was adequate, in terms of the time set, it was far from spectacular. The four-year-old also showed immaturity in the paddock at Epsom, getting worked up into a lather, which is not ideal given the large crowd presence there will be on Saturday.
The weather is going to play an important role in any duel between the front two in the market with the likely softening ground playing to Workforce’s preference. Workforce’s Arc victory came on very soft ground. Conversely St Nicholas Abbey although having been victorious in the Racing Post Trophy on good to soft prefers quicker going. The Ascot track looks Workforce’s potential spanner in the works having flopped last season in this same race though he looked like something of a spent force following his Epsom heroics. Tomorrow he is competing at his best trip of 12 furlongs and holds the most solid credentials of all the runners. He shows up 5lb ahead on Timeform ratings of his nearest rival St Nicholas Abbey. Any further rain in the skies will only improve his cause and he looks the most likely victor. Rewilding may prove the biggest danger and could become the second favourite on the day with Frankie Dettori likely to obtain support in the betting shops. Workforce is currently a general 6-4 shot.
7/1 Each Way Value at Ascot
The supporting card at Ascot is a fine one including the Class 1 Jaguar XKR-S Winkfield Stakes at 2.05.
But, it’s the Betfair Summer Double International Handicap preceding the King George at 3.50 where Hawkeyethenoo may offer some of the best value. At odds of 7-1 he is a nice each-way proposition. His handler Jim Goldie is a very shrewd operator in these handicap sprints and roared into top form last month sending out eleven winners. Whenever the Scottish trainer goes South with a horse he is worth keeping an eye on as invariably his runners will be well fancied by connections.
The improvement in Hawkeyethenoo has been massive having been rated a lowly 54 upon joining Goldie’s yard in September 2009 he is now rated 104 with sprint distances proving his forte. Last time out he lifted the Victoria Cup having been well fancied and was aimed at the Wokingham although a subsequent leg infection ruled him out. The concern would be overly testing ground for Hawkeyethenoo given he is carrying top weight of 9st 7lb following an 8lb rise after his aforementioned Victoria Cup success.
Excellent Guest and Our Jonathan rate as big dangers in this mammoth field of twenty plus runners. Nonetheless, Hawkeyethenoo looks to still be on a decent mark under the guidance of his canny handler and can bounce back from being laid low with a big run here with trusty companion Gary Bartley on top.