Horseplayers, your handicapping homework for Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is minimal. No need to crunch volumes of numbers, because trainers for the Ascot race crunched them for you.
They crunched them down to four horses for the Group 1, 1 ½-mile race at Ascot. Despite its small field, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes remains one of the most prestigious races of its type in Europe. It’s Great Britain’s prize open-division (3-year-olds and up) race, one formed by the merger of the two-mile King George VI and 1 ½-mile Queen Elizabeth races in 1951.
The race took on the name of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. But the current Queen captured the race only two years into her reign when her Aureole won the 1954 event. Because of its open nature, the race often draws deep fields of 3-year-olds taking their shots at their elders.
This year, however, quality replaced quantity. All four horses — 1/2 favorite Enable, Japan, Anthony Van Dyck, and Sovereign — are Group 1 winners. The trainers even crunched their numbers down for you, being as there are only two. John Gosden trains Enable, while the prolific Aidan O’Brien handles Japan, Anthony Van Dyck, and Sovereign.
Catch Enable If You Can
The storylines begin with Enable, who’s chasing history around Ascot’s1 ½ mile circuit. The 6-year-old mare is trying to become the first three-time winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. At the same time, Enable seeks to join Dahlia (1973-74) and Swain (1997-98) as the only horses to repeat.
Last year, Enable turned back Crystal Ocean by a neck in a stretch duel that became one of the UK’s races of the year. That was Enable’s ninth Group 1 title and second in this event. She beat Ulysses by 4 ½ lengths in the 2017 event, with Poet’s Charge sandwiching in the 2018 title.
As good as Enable and her 13 career wins are, she isn’t invincible. She lost to Ghaiyyath earlier this month in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. Gosden told the Daily Mail that he didn’t expect Enable to win the Eclipse, and that the race served its purpose as a springboard into this one.
“She’s a 6-year-old race mare and not that wild, exuberant 3-year-old race filly who could just do anything. She did well to finish second,” Gosden said.
Dettori and Moore Duel Once Again
Standout jockey Frankie Dettori takes Enable’s reins for the 15th time. He’ll stare at his riding rival, Ryan Moore, who pilots Japan (3/1 to 11/4). The 4-year-old beat Crystal Ocean in last year’s Juddmonte International, but hasn’t found the winner’s circle since. Enable beat Japan in two of those races: the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Eclipse. He was fourth in the Arc and third in the Eclipse when Enable caught and passed him in deep stretch.
Sandwiched inside was a disappointing fourth in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot last month when Japan went off as the 6/4 favorite and finished behind three geldings, Lord North, Addeybb, and Barney Roy.
Speaking of disappointments, there’s Anthony Van Dyck (8/1 to 10/1). Since winning the Epsom Derby last June, the 4-year-old is 0-for-his-last-seven races. He does have a second and two thirds in Group/Grade 1s, one of the thirds coming in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park.
Sovereign Could Be Worth An Exotic Flier
That’s one more third than Sovereign (10/1 to 12/1) claims over that same span. Of course, Sovereign ran only once in the last 13 months, taking third in the Group 3 International Vintage Crop Stakes at Curraugh in Ireland last month.
That was Sovereign’s first race since he shocked bettors and racing fans by winning the 2019 Irish Derby at 33/1. Expect Sovereign to gallop out and pace-set like he did in that Irish Derby win. Only this time, he doesn’t have the speed to sustain matters.
The pick: Enable. There’s no value in the odds-on numbers, but the next time Japan beats her will be the first.