Kings and Queens
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is a new addition to the racing calendar, relatively speaking. The Classics, and many of the big races that make up the pattern, are more than a hundred years old, while this midsummer highlight was first run in 1951.
In 1956 it was won by the great Italian trained colt, Ribot, whose win was sandwiched between two Arc victories.
Meadow Court was unlucky to be born the same year as the greatest European racehorse of the 20th century (in my opinion obviously) as he was beaten by Sea Bird in both the Derby and the Arc of 1965. He did win the Irish Derby and was responsible for the first of Lester Piggott’s seven King George wins. Meadow Court was also part owned by Bing Crosby so there was a touch of Hollywood glamour around wherever he ran.
The 1970’s was probably the greatest era of the race, the decade beginning with a win for the last horse to complete the English Triple Crown, Nijinsky. Fellow equine legends Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard won the next two renewals before Dahlia took over.
The Irish Oaks winner won the 1973 version by six lengths ahead of Rheingold and Roberto among others. She followed up the following year where she “cantered home on the bit, without Piggott having to move a muscle”. She was some horse and still only one of two horses to win the race twice.
In 1975 we witnessed the race of races between Grundy and Bustino which was replicated to a lesser extent last year.
The 1980’s had Shergar winning by just the four lengths. A fine win but we possibly expected a performance to match his Derby romp.
Dancing Brave beat a strong field in 1986 which included Triptych, Sharastani, and Shadari, before doing the same at Longchamp in that epic Arc. Reference Point, Mtoto, and the brilliant Nashwan rounded off the decade.
The best winner of the nineties, once again just my view, was Lammtarra. He had won the Derby in course record time but had to battle at Ascot to get the better of Pentire, who would win the race the following season. Good omen for Crystal Ocean backers maybe?
Swain became the second dual winner in 1997 and 1998. And he is also the only six year old to win the race.
Montjeu in 2000 and Galileo in 2001 were two champions who enjoyed King George glory. Both were ridden by Mick Kinane and both beat Fantastic Light in the race.
Kinane had said that Montjeu was the best mile and a half horse he had ever sat on. The following year Galileo was being hailed as the best in Europe. It must be good to be Michael Kinane.
Oh so close
Nathaniel was oh so close to being a back to back winner in 2012 when being caught, quite literally, on the line by Danedream, herself an excellent filly who had won the Arc the season before and was, somehow, 9/1 when beating Nathaniel at Ascot.
Since Galileo’s win there have only been four three year old winners. And two of them have been Oaks winners. Brilliant Oaks winners. Taghrooda had been supplemented and I was happy to take the hint. She powered down the outside to win by three lengths.
And now we come to Enable. She also won the race as an Oaks winner and was four lengths too good for Eclipse winner Ulysses. And she is bidding for a second win two years later.
I expect Enable to win despite the rain. She goes on pretty much any going anyway.
One horse missing from the race was Sea Of Class. She was the filly that came so close to ending Enable’s unbeaten run at Lonchamp in the Arc last October.
It was hoped they would meet again this season but there were problems with William Haggas’s stable star.
She recently had colic surgery to remove an abdominal mass but this turned out to be a malignant tumour and a further tumour was found which led to the sad decision to end her suffering.
Her Irish Oaks win was a brilliant last to first run with James Doyle getting her up on the line under hands and heels. Her Yorkshire Oaks win was even better with Doyle riding her with confidence of one who knew he was on the best horse in the race. And that dramatic Arc finish will live long in the memory.
She will be missed by us racing fans but it is a devastating loss for those closest to her.
More for Ascot
The Secret Racegoer’s guide to going to Ascot http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2aJ
Ascot: over 300 years of racing history http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-29A
Royal Ascot 2019: five phenomenal days http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2ef