The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes will see the three-year-olds clash with the older generation at Ascot on Saturday.
And on writing this preview, there is a distinct possibility that the hugely exciting three-year-old filly, Enable, could take up this engagement.
Having landed two classics already this campaign by a combined total of ten-and-a-half lengths, this daughter of Nathaniel, has relished the mile and a half distance, and possesses a potent turn of foot.
She will handle any cut in the ground, and trainer John Gosden, has saddled the last two three-year-olds to have won this contest. One of those being the filly, Taghrooda, who also won the Oaks at Epsom, on route to capturing this prize in such impressive fashion.
Three-year-olds receive a very favourable weight for age allowance, and Enable clearly ticks plenty of boxes.
My only slight reservation is that the Irish Oaks success was only two weeks ago, and there is a slight possibility, that this race may come a little too quick.
Connections will make a final decision on her participation later in the week, but if she does turn up, then she will take plenty of beating.
That is not to say that the older generation should be dismissed lightly, though.
In Highland Reel, Enable faces stiff competition. Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotting superstar won this race twelve months ago, and has looked better than ever in 2017, having won the Coronation Cup at Epsom, and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
If allowed to dominate from the front, he will be a hard horse to pass, but as good as he is, I believe it will take a personal best to give Enable a stone in weight, and a beating.
The masterful O’Brien has also confirmed that another Royal Ascot winner in Idaho will line up too.
A likeable performer, that there is no doubt, but he has now contested six Grade One races, and is yet to win one.
He looks sure to run his race, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t find a few too good.
Sir Michael Stoute has won this race on a record five occasions (along with Dick Hern and Saeed bin Suroor), and will rely upon the fast improving four-year-old Ulysses, to complete a notable Eclipse / King George double.
His Sandown success was impressive, as he fended off the persistent challenge of Barney Roy. Ulysses travelled like a dream that day, and continues to sparkle back home on the Newmarket gallops.
He could easily find further improvement stepping back up in distance (has won over this trip before), as his classic pedigree would suggest, being a son of the Derby winner, Galileo, and a daughter of an Oaks winner, Light Shift.
He has a length-and-a-quarter to find on Royal Ascot form with Highland Reel, but is very much respected, and should make his presence felt.
John Gosden also saddles Jack Hobbs, who was well beaten last time behind Highland Reel and Ulysses at Royal Ascot. The trainer believed that the ground rode too quick that day, and with softer conditions anticipated for this weekend, he could be a much bigger threat.
It’s likely the twelve furlong trip will see him in a much better light too.
Runner-up to the brilliant Golden Horn in the 2015 Derby, Jack Hobbs went on to win the Irish version, and looked back to his best when running away with the Dubai Sheema Classic, back in March. On his day he is a supremely talented horse, and if back to his best – adds further flavour to an already juicy contest.
Godolphin are likely to declare Frontiersman too, who has finished second this term to Highland Reel at Epsom, and then runner-up to stable companion, Hawkbill, at Newmarket.
On both occasions he didn’t look straight-forward. He hung down the camber on the Epsom straight, and some questioned his resolution when out-battled by the latter at Newmarket.
Hawkbill, is very capable at the highest level, particularly when allowed to dominate. He relishes cut in the ground, and if allowed to run, could be deemed over-priced, although my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered with Highland Reel in opposition, as he may take him on for the lead.
Mark Johnston could run the incredibly tough Permian too. This three-year-old colt has run seven times since mid-April, and has won two Group Two events at York and Royal Ascot. He ran another cracker when just touched off by Shakeel in the Group One Grand Prix de Paris at Saint-Cloud.
He takes his racing so well, but will need a career best to take this prize.
Enable (7/4) should take a lot of beating if she runs, but is priced accordingly in the ante-post market. Her two Classic wins were highly impressive, and she is a worthy favourite.
Highland Reel (5/2) will attempt to be the third horse to win this prestigious race in back to back years, and makes obvious appeal given his rock-solid form, but it may pay to take a chance on Jack Hobbs (11/2), who ought to run a much better race – given the easier ground conditions, and extra two furlong distance. His Sheema Classic win entitles him to a lot of respect, and trainer John Gosden seems quietly confident of a big run.
If successful, he will be the first five-year-old to have won this race since Daylami in 1999.
Jack Hobbs (11/2) to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
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