The most anticipated race thus far in the European racing season will take place this Saturday, July 27 at Ascot when the superstar 5-year-old mare Enable (GB) faces off against a bevy of Group 1 winners including Crystal Ocean (GB), Dafoe (IRE), Anthony Van Dyck (IRE), Waldgeist (GB) and Cheval Grand (JPN) among 11 starters in the 1 ½-mile King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1). Saturday's winner will receive an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) through the international Breeders' Cup Challenge.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 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 at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, California, Nov 1-2. As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, Breeders' Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Enable, two-time Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner and last year's Longines Breeders' Cup Turf champion, bred and owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah and trained by John Gosden, has won 11 of her 12 starts, the last nine being Group 1 triumphs – all with jockey Frankie Dettori aboard. Her most recent victory was the 1 ¼-mile Coral Eclipse (G1) at Sandown, defeating Magical (IRE) by three-quarters of a length on June 6, which was her first start since winning the Turf at Churchill Downs last November.
“The Eclipse is close enough [to Ascot], but you are getting three weeks and hopefully that will be fine,” said Gosden this week. “She has just been doing routine work since Sandown. She worked on Saturday with Frankie on her. We were going to work on the grass, but we did not get enough rain so she worked on the All-Weather. She seems happy and well in the face of what will be a tall order.”
A bay daughter of Nathaniel (IRE), who Gosden trained to win the 2011 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Enable captured the King George in 2017 as a 3-year-old.
“Enable won the King George as a 3-year-old filly getting weight, just as Taghrooda (2014) did,” Gosden added. “It is a little different when you're older and suddenly you have a Derby winner coming at you who's getting the weight, and a magnificent older horse in Crystal Ocean who ran a blinder last year and won the Prince Of Wales's Stakes well last month.
Sir Evelyn de Rothschild's 5-year-old Crystal Ocean was passed in the final yards by stablemate Poet's Word (IRE) in last year's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who has won this race six times, Crystal Ocean, ridden by James Doyle, already has qualified for this year's Longines Turf with a stirring 1 ¼-length victory over Magical in the Prince of Wales Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot on June 19, and earned his first Group 1 score. That was the third win in as many starts this year for the bay son of Sea the Stars (IRE), having previously captured the Sir Gordon Richards (G3) at Sandown on April 21 and the Al Rayyan Stakes (G3) at Newbury on May 18.
Investec Derby (G1) winner Anthony Van Dyck is one of two 3-year-olds in the race, which includes stablemate Norway (IRE). Owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, and trained by Aidan O'Brien, Anthony Van Dyck won the Derby at Epsom by a half-length over Madhmoon (IRE) at odds of 13-2, and gave the bay son of Galileo (IRE) his fifth win. In his next start, Anthony Van Dyck was no match for stablemate Sovereign (IRE) in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (G1) at the Curragh on June 29, finishing second, six lengths behind the winner as the 5-4 favorite.
O'Brien, who has won this race four times, also has entered the 4-year-old filly Magic Wand (IRE), who was second last time out in the Pretty Polly Stakes (G1) on June 28 at the Curragh.
Sheikh Mohammad Obaid Al Maktoum's 5-year-old Dafoe comes into Saturday's race off back- to-back Group stakes scores. Trained by Roger Varian and ridden by Andrea Atzeni, Dafoe won his first start at Ascot by capturing the 1 ½-mile Hardwicke Stakes (G2) on June 23 by a half-length as the 11-4 favorite during the Royal Meeting. It was his ninth win in 18 starts. Prior to that, the gray gelded son of Dalakhani (IRE) won the 1 ½-mile Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom by a half-length over Kew Gardens (IRE).
The Andre Fabre-trained Waldgeist has three Group 1 wins with the most recent one coming two starts back when the 5-year-old son of Galileo dominated the 1 3/8-mile Prix Ganay at Longchamp by 4 ½ lengths on April 18. Owned by Gestut Ammerland and Newsells Park and ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot, Waldgeist was a non-threatening third, beaten 4 ½ lengths by Crystal Ocean in the Prince of Wales's. Waldgeist, seven of 18 lifetime, finished fifth in last year's Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Kazuhiro Sasaki's 7-year-old Cheval Grand will be making his 30th start on Saturday. The 2017 Japan Cup (G1) winner, a chestnut son of Heart's Cry (IRE), is looking for his first win in seven races since his crowning glory at Tokyo Race Course as 5-year-old. However, Grand Cheval, trained by Yasuo Tomomonichi and ridden by Oisin Murphy, ran second in his only start this year in the 1 ½- mile Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan on March 30, finishing 1 ¼ lengths behind Old Persian (GB). That was his first start in three months since finishing third in the Arima Kinen (G1) at Nakayama.
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is the fourth “Win and You're In” race to be run this year in the Longines Turf Division. In addition to Crystal Ocean, the other horses who have already qualified for the Turf are Il Mercato (ARG), winner of the Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini (G1) at San Isidro in Argentina and George Washington (BRZ) winner of the Grande Premio Brasil (G1) at Gavea in Brazil.
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