The sad news of St Nicholas Abbey’s career-ending injury has seen the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting smashed up and reformed, with Cirrus Des Aigles a warm favourite.
As the highest-rated racehorse in training it’s somewhat surprising to see his price edging out towards the 2/1 mark, but the lack of market confidence is just one of the reasons it may be worth opposing him.
For starters Corine Barande-Barbe’s entire will have to thumb his nose at the history books if he is to prevail.
The King George has never had a seven-year-old winner in its 61 years as a contest, with only repeat winner Swain scoring at six during the race’s lifetime. Since 1999 no horse older than four has taken the King George laurels, suggesting our focus should be on younger practitioners.
Another negative is the 1m4f trip. Despite beating St Nicholas Abbey in the Group 1 Sheema Classic at Meydan last term, the son of Even Top has posted his finest performances in contests over 2f shorter.
That Dubai success came off a modest gallop in which Olivier Peslier was able to utilise his finishing kick to steal the race from his rival and the suspicion is that with the likes of Ektihaam, Universal and Ernest Hemingway likely to set a searching pace up front, he may not find enough left in the tank to kick clear of his rivals at the business end of Ascot’s gruelling uphill home straight.
Injured in preparation for a tilt at the Hong Kong Cup in December, he ran out of gas 1f from home on his seasonal debut – when fifth behind Novellist – and although his trainer has suggested he’ll be far fitter at Ascot his stamina may be have pushed into the red even with an uninterrupted prep.
Finally, the likely good or faster going could also count against the French horse on his return from injury, especially as his most commanding performances have come on soft going.
Cirrus Des Aigles’ Saint-Cloud conqueror Novellist (4/1), Trading Leather (9/2), Hillstar (7/1) and Ektihaam (7/1) all have claims when it comes to discussions about who to oppose the jolly with, but at least according to official ratings it Jim Bolger’s Irish Derby-winner that has the best chance of victory.
The 11/8 favourite has 12lbs or more in hand of all his rivals on official ratings, but a chunky 12lb weight-for-age allowance means that three-year-old Trading Leather – rated 118 – has just 1lb to find.
In theory, improvement that might be expected from the Bolger colt as a three-year-old, coupled with a degradation in Cirrus Des Aigles’ ability due to age, recent injury and a less than ideal trip could see the favourite toppled.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date