THIS year’s renewal of the Group 1 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot has a real international flavour to it as the world’s best one and a half milers go to war at the Berkshire venue on Saturday.
Last year’s renewal went the way of Germany and it is Novellist (4-1) that bids to follow in the same footsteps as Danedream, who come out on top in a ding-dong battle with 2011 winner Nathaniel 12 months ago.
John Gosden’s two-time Group 1 winner was the first three-year-old since Alamshar in 2003 to land this prize two years ago and Trading Leather represents good value at 9-2 with Paddy Power as he bids to follow suit.
Following the most unfortunate news that six-times Group 1 winner St Nicholas Abbey suffered a career-ending injury in a routine piece of work this week, punters that had played elsewhere in the ante-post market will be in no mood for trading their bet.
Ireland are still well represented, though, as Jim Bolger’s charge was last seen notching in the Irish Derby at the Curragh and his Teofilo colt has done nothing but improve this year.
An unlucky loser in the Dante Stakes at York on his seasonal reappearance, he finished behind two very useful form yardsticks in Ballydoyle’s Gale Force Ten and Magician in the Irish 2,000 Guineas before successfully dropping in class for his Derby prep in the Listed Silver Stakes.
Cirrus Des Aigles boasts a great record at Ascot, Champion Stakes hero in 2011 and second to only Frankel in the same race last October, and he’s a worthy favourite representing France.
When described as only 60% fit for the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud on his seasonal reappearance, though, the seven-year-old was no match for German raider Novellist and that performance will only come as a concern to punters willing to take 6-4.
Universal (16-1) deserves to take his chance and has done nothing but progress for Mark Johnston this year, but as was apparent in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, he might not benefit from an uncontested lead with Ektihaam (15-2) another confirmed front-runner in the race for Roger Varian.
Both come into the reckoning, along with Hillstar (7-1), who impressed over the C&D at the Royal meeting when beating Epsom Derby fourth Battle Of Marengo in the King Edward VII Stakes.
Selection: Trading Leather 9-2 (1pt win)