Led by defending Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) winner Highland Reel (IRE), and English and Irish Oaks (G1) winner Enable (GB), an all-star cast of 10 horses has been entered at Ascot for Saturday's 1½ mile King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf through the international Breeders' Cup Challenge.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held for the first time at the Del Mar race track near San Diego, California, on November 3-4.
Saturday's race is the first of 18 Breeders' Cup Challenge races to be run in Europe this year.
Highland Reel, a Group 1 winner on three continents for owners Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, and trainer Aidan O'Brien qualified for last year's Longines Turf by winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The 5-year-old son of Galileo, a wire to wire winner in the 2016 Turf at Santa Anita Park, has won two of this three starts this year, taking the 1 ½ mile Investec Coronation Cup (G1) at Sandown on June 2, and followed that with a dramatic 1¼-length victory in the 1¼-mile Prince of Wales's Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot on June 21.
Adding intrigue is the connections of Coolmore entering the 4-year-old Idaho, full brother to Highland Reel, in Saturday's race. Seeking his first Group 1 career win, Idaho comes into the King George VI off a half-length win in the 1 ¼ mile Hardwicke Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot on June 24.
Prince Khalid Abdullah's Enable, a 3-year-old filly by Nathaniel (IRE), trained by John Gosden, comes into Saturday's race as the current favorite off her brilliant back-to-back scores in the Investec Oaks (G1), by 5 lengths at Epsom on June 2, and followed up that victory with a 5½- length win in the Irish Oaks (G1) at the Curragh on July 15. It was Enable's fourth win in five career starts.
Gosden has also entered Godolphin and Partners' 5-year-old Jack Hobbs (GB), winner of the 1½ mile Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan in March, but was a disappointing eighth last time out in the Prince of Wales's as the 2-1 favorite.
Trainer Michael Stoute seeks a record sixth win in the King George with the 4-year-old Ulysses (GB), who scored his first career Group 1 win in the Coral -Eclipse Stakes at Sandown in his previous start on July 8 for the Niarchos Family (Flaxman Holdings). The chestnut son of Galileo (IRE) was third in the Prince of Wales's in his previous start.
Adding to the international flavor of the King George is Santa Elena Stable's Sixties Song (ARG), winner of the 1½-mile Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano (G1) at Valparaiso in Chile on March 5. Trained by Alfredo Dassie, Sixties Song, a bay son of Sixties Icon (GB), finished third as the 6-5 favorite in the “Win and You're In” Gran Premio 25 de Mayo (G1) at San Isidro in Argentina on May 25.
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is the fourth Breeders' Cup Challenge race in the Longines Turf Division this year. Satono Crown (JPN) was the most recent qualifier, winning the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin in June. The 8-year-old Ordak Dan (ARG) was the first to qualify when he won the Gran Premio 25 de Mayo (G1) at San Isidro in Buenos Aires on May 25. The 3-year-old Voador Magee (BRZ) earned a Turf bid by capturing the Grande Premio Brasil (G1) at Hipodromo Gavea in Rio de Janeiro on June 11.
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