Sir Michael Stoute is going for a record sixth victory in the £1.25-million Gr1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes sponsored by QIPCO at Ascot on Saturday with Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word.
It is the third richest race in Britain.
He commented about his strong challenge for the 12-furlong race in a filmed interview: “Both horses seem in good shape and their preparations have gone well. They have both been in good form this year so, touch wood, we are happy at this stage.
“Crystal Ocean has won all three of his starts this year and he has won over the course and distance at Ascot (G2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot). The ground may be fast, but he is actually impervious to ground.
“He comes from a very good Rothschild family and they seem to improve with age – good honest horses.
“The win of Poet’s Word in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Gr1, 10f) at Royal Ascot would have been his best performance to date. He ran very well in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Gr1, 12f) too – he is effective at a mile and a half.
“He has been recording high levels of form and seems versatile in terms of distance – 10 or 12 furlongs. He has won at the track too and his preparation has gone well.
“Excitement may not be the right word – I just want to get them both to Ascot on Saturday in one piece. I am looking forward to the race.
“It is a very high level race and is always competitive. My horses have decent form and are first and second favourite. They may not finish first and second, but they are entitled to be in there.
“William Buick will ride Crystal Ocean, who is usually Ryan Moore’s mount but he will be taken by Ballydoyle this weekend, while James Doyle will again be on Poet’s Word.”
The Newmarket trainer reflected on his past King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes sponsored by QIPCO winners.
He said: “Shergar (1981) gave us an anxious moment as he was short of room on the turn for home, but he still won impressively.
“Harbinger (2010) ran to his very best form – he was a serious machine that day. He kept progressing, from the Ormonde to the Hardwicke and then again for the King George. Sadly, he got an injury when we were preparing him for the Juddmonte.
“Opera House (1993) was a very good and solid performer. Conduit (2009) was a model of consistency – a sound and lovely horse who won two Breeders’ Cups.
“It was Golan’s (2002) first appearance of the year – that was a good feat – a Guineas winner from the year before and second in the Derby. He was a pretty decent horse, but probably did not get the credit he deserved.
Britain and Ireland’s Champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the Gr1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes sponsored by QIPCO on four occasions, courtesy of Galileo (2001), Dylan Thomas (2007), Duke Of Marmalade (2008) and Highland Reel (2016).
The master of Ballydoyle’s leading representative for the 2018 renewal of the 12-furlong Gr1 contest is the progressive Kew Gardens, who plundered the Gr1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (12f) on his latest outing at Longchamp on July 14.
The three-year-old son of Galileo annexed the Gr2 Queen’s Vase over 14 furlongs at Royal Ascot after finishing a disappointing ninth in Britain’s premier Classic, the Investec Derby, at Epsom Downs on June 2
O’Brien has been delighted with the colt’s progression this season and is hopeful of a good performance on Saturday.
O’Brien has four other entries in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, including Rostropovich. The three-year-old son of Frankel was a striking winner of the Listed Dee Stakes at Chester in May, before finishing ninth in the French Derby at Chantilly on June 3.
However, the colt has returned to form in two runs since, finishing second in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes at the Royal Meeting and then filling the runner-up position in the G1 Irish Derby at the Curragh on June 30.
Regarding his participation, O’Brien commented: “Rostropovich could be a possible runner. He is in good form at home and ran well in the Irish Derby.”
O’Brien’s quintet is completed by four-year-old Hydrangea, a course and distance winner in the G1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day in October, fellow four-year-old Cliffs Of Moher, who ran twice at Royal Ascot, finishing fourth to Poet’s Word in the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and third to Crystal Ocean in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes and Queen’s Vase third Nelson.