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King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Guide: Enable v O’Brien

| 23.07.2020

It’s usually billed as a clash of the generations, but this year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes boils down to a head-to-head between Enable and Aidan O’Brien.

The Ballydoyle handler won’t quite be galloping around the track himself, although he could pick up a decent pot for finishing fifth; rather he’s the only trainer to put forward any opposition to Enable.

John Gosden’s wonder-mare is bidding to land a record-breaking hat-trick of successes in the race and will face just three rivals in her quest for another slice of history.

It’s not the race it perhaps could or should be, but that won’t make the battle between Enable, Anthony Van Dyck, Japan and Sovereign any less intense.

We’re still looking forward to the contest which will be live on ITV at 15:35 this Saturday, and we’ve run the rule over the quartet in our King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes runner-by-runner guide.

Enable | 1112-2 | Frankie Dettori | John Gosden

She may have won back-to-back Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe titles in 2017 and 2018, but is Enable’s crown starting to slip? On the bare form, two straight defeats might suggest the answer to that question is yes.

However, when we delve a little deeper, it’s possible to make excuses for both of those efforts while also recognising that she finished a very good second in both reversals.

In her attempt to win a third Arc at Longchamp last season, she was thwarted by the combination of a determined Waldgeist and soft ground which meant she couldn’t show her explosive turn of foot.

Then on her reappearance this season in the Coral-Eclipse, Enable lost nothing in a 2¼l defeat to Ghaiyyath, who came into the race with the benefit of a prep-run in the Coronation Cup.

This will be the race when we find out whether the ten-time Group 1 winner still has the same hunger and desire as a six-year-old, and don’t forget she’s beaten both Japan and Anthony Van Dyck before.

Japan | 114-43 | Ryan Moore | Aidan O’Brien

Of the three O’Brien runners, it’s Japan who stands the best chance of toppling Enable. The Galileo colt started the season with a poor run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes but showed a chunk of improvement in the Eclipse.

It looked for all the world that an extra furlong or two would’ve seen Japan come home in front of Enable at Sandown, so with 1m 4f on offer in the King George, he has to be considered a serious threat.

The main problem for the second-favourite is that he’s twice been beaten by the wonder-mare, and with Gosden’s inmate likely to strip fitter for her reappearance, Japan will need to find another jolt of progress to land the spoils.

The four-year-old is a solid bet to run a strong race around Ascot, but whether it’s enough to see him add a third Group 1 to his collection, we’re not so sure.

Anthony Van Dyck | 330-25 | Oisin Murphy | Aidan O’Brien

It says a lot for the winner of the 2019 Derby that the horse who finished third that day is considered a much more viable proposition in a race like this.

The fact of the matter is Anthony Van Dyck hasn’t entered the winner’s enclosure since that fateful day at Epsom, and that ultimately a contest of this quality is probably beyond him.

He showed some promise for the first time in a while on his reappearance behind Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup, although it’s likely the conditions of the race suited the four-year-old.

A subsequent fifth-placed finish in a below-par Hardwicke Stakes does little to set the pulse racing, and ultimately his namesake Dick might be a better bet for this race.

Sovereign | 2301-3 | William Buick | Aidan O’Brien

Like Anthony Van Dyck, it’s hard to see Sovereign being up to a race of this calibre.

William Buick’s mount may be an Irish Derby winner, but that was largely down to the field allowing the colt out of Devoted To You an uncontested lead up the front.

He took advantage of the mistakes of others and capitalised with a ride full of initiative to produce a massive 33/1 boil over.

While he won’t go off at such a ludicrous price here, it’d be an even bigger shock if he could reproduce that effort and see off the likes of Enable and Japan.

There’s a fair chance he’ll attempt to make the running once again, and although a victory will almost certainly be beyond him, he could maintain form with Anthony Van Dyck and beat the Epsom hero home into third.

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Nick Murphy

Nick is a graduate of the UEA where he doubled up as the sports editor of the student newspaper. He supports Dagenham & Redbridge and previously edited the matchday programme at Victoria Road. Darts and Horse Racing are among his other favourite sports.