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International flavour at Ascot’s King George

How fitting it is in the week of the royal birth that the 63rd running of Britain’s most prestigious open-age flat race, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, should take place this Saturday at Ascot.

However, this year’s feature has a truly international flavour, with the French-trained Cirrus Des Aigles and the German raider Novellist at the head of the market.

Long time ante-post favourite St Nicholas Abbey sadly suffered a fractured leg during a routine gallop on Tuesday morning and will not take part, although connections are hopeful that he can be saved for a career at stud.

That still leaves an elite field of 10 due to go to post after Hillstar was supplemented at a cost of £75,000 ($115,000) on Monday. The Danehill Dancer colt has the strongest credentials for keeping the prize at home, if the betting exchanges are anything to go by.

Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, Buckhounds Stakes victor Ektihaam, Ernest Hemingway, Universal, Very Nice Name, Red Cadeaux and Chamonix complete the line-up.

So who is going to win? Well that very much depends upon the state of the ground come the weekend, and I would strongly advise anyone who fancies a flutter to wait until the last minute in order to avoid upsetting the bank manager.

Rain is on the agenda for the Berkshire track but in a quantity unknown according to those reliable forecasters, who at least assure us that a hurricane is not on the way.

If Ernest Hemingway is to land this noble prize, ground conditions should not be an issue, although this looks much tougher than the Group Three affair encountered last time out.

Should there be a German story this Saturday, as there was last year when Danedream wrote her way into the history books, then the rains must come for Novellist, as he has never even raced on ground faster than good.

Trading Leather is one of only two three-year-olds in the field (the other being Hillstar), yet the younger generation do not appear to be a vintage crop.

Hillstar showed a nice turn of foot to land the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot but has yet to land a Group One, having previously ran only in handicaps.

Ektihaam, is a bit of an enigma having slipped up when clear inside the final mile on the course last time out in the Hardwicke Stakes. If he is none the worse for that experience, he could easily run into a place at a big price, especially on a course that suits front runners.

Jockey Dane O’Neill looks to have come in for a plum spare ride, as regular pilot Paul Hanagan has been claimed to ride for John Gosden at York on the same afternoon.

Favourite Cirrus Des Aigles ran an absolute stinker on his seasonal bow in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

Forgive him that and he has clearly the best form. He is a multiple Group One and Group Two winner, having landed top races in England, France and Dubai, and is 10 pounds (4.54kg) ahead over his nearest rival on official ratings.

Connections will be doing a raindance as this colt ideally likes some cut, but anything on ground no faster than good going should suit.

I take Cirrus Des Aigles, whose name translates roughly as Cloud of Eagles, to swoop late and catch Ekithaam inside the final furlong.

Selections: Cirrus Des Aigles to win at 13-8 and Ektihaam each way at 8-1. Bob Morton



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