Another day at Royal Ascot, another hugely competitive handicap.
The King George V Stakes is run over a mile-and-a-half and has been farmed by Mark Johnston in the past, the Glaswegian having trained the winner of the race on no less than six occasions including last year with Baghdad. He has another contender in our top six, made up of the below:
Michael Bell’s colt is a Mastercraftsman out of a Sadler’s Wells mare and has the inside draw, so on paper this looks ideal for him.
He’s improving nicely and won a small race at Leicester very easily last time on fast ground, so this is a different test but he looks capable of handling it and if taking his form literally then he has to have a huge chance having beaten Questionare, albeit it he had a handy weight concession from the Gosden colt that day.
It’s unusual to see Aidan O’Brien with so many runners in a handicap, but it just goes to show how many of these mile-and-a-half types he has it his disposal.
Some of his look high in the weights and/or are badly drawn, but this Eminence holds a solid chance on paper after a soft ground win at Leopardstown and can go well under Wayne Lordan even from stall 19 which is taken into account.
Both Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy have shown that they are in great form and their Good Birthday, like the winner Headman who contests the Hampton Court Stakes, was drawn wide in the London Gold Cup but ran a cracker to finish third there.
That looks really good form and the 6lb rise alone may not be enough to stop him, but unlike some others in the race the handicapper at least has some idea of his ability and so he needs another big step forward.
If it weren’t for the wide draw there would perhaps be a little more confidence in this horse, but even with the extra ground to cover the Godolphin colt must be taken seriously.
Having only the third race of his life he routed the opposition in a novice event at Ripon and while the form of that wouldn’t be very strong, he did it so easily and may just have been slightly underestimated by the assessor who’s given him an opening mark of 91.
One of the types thought of early on in the year as a potential classic contender, Questionare just took time to come to hand but that can be a real advantage for us as we know that he will improve considerably, especially in an honestly run handicap.
By Galileo out of a Dansili mare John Gosden’s runner is impeccably bred and had to overcome a slow start to score on debut at Wolverhampton where things didn’t suit him very well.
He’s been beaten twice since, but has run well on both occasions including when giving fancied runner here Babbo’s Boy 6lbs and running to within a neck (just a 3lb difference here) and then when meeting interference before almost snatching it from well liked Godolphin horse Dubai Falcon, again giving away 6lbs.
He can in theory improve a ton from that race and off a mark of 94 he may prove to be extremely well handicapped under man-on-the-moment Frankie Dettori.
Sir Ron Priestley
It would be folly not to include a Mark Johnston runner in our contenders list and this one seems to be the Middleham handler’s best.
He’s improving all the time and won very easily from the front at Haydock last time from a well-handicapped horse of Andrew Balding’s who went on to run second at Chester next time on unsuitable ground, while it’s also worth mentioning that he slammed Bobbo’s Boy this season off level weights and concedes only 3lbs to him this time.
Great Example definitely has a lot of ability and must be considered for the places, as must Aidan O’Brien’s Eminence although it’s as hard as ever to split his four runners in the race.
Babbo’s Boy could be the key horse here and in his own right he has a good chance, but if he does then Sir Ron Priestley is a rightful favourite and QUESTIONARE could prove to be a class above, which we think he just might and at a nice price too.