|Tuesday 12th July 2016|
Can anyone Postpone the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes celebrations for Roger Varian?
Image Source: britishhorseracing.com
Ever since his victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2015, Postponed has not put a foot wrong in the middle-distance division, winning all four of his racecourse appearances, two of those at Group One level, including the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan and the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup at the Epsom racecourse.
The next task for Postponed is to shine at Ascot again and defend his crown in the King George where he will be looking to become only the third horse in history to win the race on more than one occasion after his success last year. Dahlia was the first horse to win multiple King George’s races when she won in 1973 and then followed up her success in 1974, while more recently Swain is on the honours’ board for his wins in 1997 and 1998.
At the time of writing, Postponed is evens with Betstars to win the King George in what would be back-to-back years. He has been rested for this race ever since his success on Derby day at Epsom in the Coronation Cup. The five-year old has established himself as the leading middle-distance runner in Europe this season. Not only does he top the betting for the Ascot feature, he is also the market leader at 5-1 to prevail in the most prestigious race on the continent, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October at Chantilly.
In 2015, there was just a nose separating Postponed and Eagle Top in one of the most exciting finishes to a King George at Ascot. Under the hands of Andrea Atzeni, Postponed tracked the leaders in the early stages and then hit the front with two furlongs to go. He was challenged inside the last furlong by Eagle Top but the winner had the advantage of the inside rail which he used to straighten his run as much as possible and it made a difference.
Postponed’s final run last year came in France at Longchamp in the Prix Foy. The ground on that occasion came up very soft in Paris but he stayed on gamely in the closing stages of the 12f contest to score by just under a length ahead of the French-trained Spiritjim.
Image Source: Racing UK
Roger Varian bids for his first King George success with Postponed
2016 brought about a new environment for the multiple Group One winner as he moved stables to work with Roger Varian. The first task for his new trainer was to travel to Meydan. He won a Group Two contest on turf on his reappearance, while later that month he was successful in the Sheema Classic where he picked up just under £2.5 million in prize money for his connections.
After a successful stint in Dubai, Postponed was saved for the Coronation Cup at Epsom. His chief rival on the downs was Found but the latter proved no match for the five-year old who stretched away from his rivals in the last couple of furlongs to score by over four lengths.
Hawkbill set to lead challenge against Postponed
The biggest danger to Postponed’s King George win could be the recent Coral-Eclipse winner Hawkbill. The three-year old will need to be supplemented for the race, however connections also paid the fee required to take part in the Eclipse at Sandown so the cost required to run at Ascot is unlikely to be too high to put them off taking their chance.
Image Source: Irish Times
At the age of three, it would only be Hawkbill’s second run against the older horses. Not only did he get the better of the experienced Time Test and My Dream Boat at the Esher track, but he was also able to hold off the challenge of the French 2000 Guineas winner The Gurkha who went off at 4/6 in the betting before the 1m2f contest.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, Hawkbill needed three runs to break his maiden. It came at Lingfield on the all-weather where he battled with the Marco Botti-trained Lazzam, eventually beating his rival by just a neck in a photo finish.
After his maiden win, two further victories then followed on the all-weather at Kempton before his winter break. Hawkbill made his seasonal reappearance at Newmarket on turf where he was successful in a Listed contest. It was clear following that race that the three-year old had filled out and progressed during his off-season.
Appleby’s runner then made a further step up in class at Royal Ascot in the Group Three Tercentenary Stakes. He chased the leaders in the early stages of the 1m2f contest before being driven clear inside the final furlong to score by just over a length.
With a Group One also under his belt, Hawkbill could continue to improve and may be the biggest threat to Postponed’s crown at Ascot.
Image Source: Pao Ma Photography
Aidan O'Brien's hopes lie with Highland Reel
Aidan O’Brien’s leading representative in this year’s King George appears to be with Highland Reel who is still bidding for his first victory in 2016. The four-year was unfortunate at Royal Ascot in the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes where he was denied victory by a head by Dartmouth. The now globetrotter has Group One wins to his name in the United States and Hong Kong, however he is yet to score at the highest level in the UK or Ireland.
The least exposed horse leading into the King George this year looks to be Wings of Desire who has only had the four racecourse runs so far. John Gosden’s runner broke his maiden tag back in April, doing so at Wolverhampton in impressive style on the all-weather surface when going off at 8/15.
Wings of Desire then quickly stepped up in class to seal the Dante Stakes at York in one of the leading Derby trials. He took his chance at Epsom in the Classic where he did not disgrace himself by finishing fourth in the race won by Harzand.
Although the challenge to Postponed does look strong, if the Varian runner does run up to his mark, it is going to take a career best performance from one of the other horses to deny him his back-to-back success.