Racing: No madness in favouring Bago for King George

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The Independent Online

For the second occasion - the last came in 1960 - Newbury plays host to the summer highlight which belongs, outside times of redevelopment, to its even more affluent Berkshire cousin.

This Group One contest is supposedly the first moment for the Classic colts to test their achievements against the cream of their elders. The only flaw in this reckoning is that not one Classic colt takes part. The three-year-old delegation consists solely of Eswarah, the unbeaten Oaks winner.

There is a further strange shape to the 12-strong field. We know that nine of the entry can win at the distance but the favourite is one which requires guesswork.

There are plus signs about Azamour, even if he has not as much as even attempted a 12-furlong journey. John Oxx's charge is the mount of Michael Kinane, the most successful riding exponent taking part this afternoon with four King George wins. In addition, the colt has Group One form already in the locker with victories in the Irish Champion Stakes last season and the Prince of Wales's Stakes last month at the royal meeting. The latter form, however, is hardly mesmeric and, as Azamour is a favourite trying this voyage for the first time, it is almost obligatory to take him on.

The general second favourite is Grey Swallow, an Irish Derby winner who supplies a factual oddity in that he is Dermot Weld's first runner in the race. The grey's most recent outing is winning form and superficially persuasive as, among his victims in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, were Bago, Ace, Azamour and Norse Dancer, all of whom are back for another stab. The caveat here is that Grey Swallow was operating on his favoured ground that day and is not so likely to be suited by the good to firm going likely at Newbury.

"He is in good shape and we are happy with him," Weld said yesterday. "But it's always a great race and we have to worry about all of the others. The ground is obviously a concern - safe ground would be OK, but you wouldn't want to run him too often on fast ground."

That may be the problem with Doyen, who looked some device in this contest 12 months ago but has since shown all the acceleration of a lawnmower. Firm ground now seems to hold terrors for him. The suggestion abroad yesterday was that he is more a ceremonial runner for Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin than a genuine combatant.

Eswarah has a lot to prove, but then that was the position before she scooped up the Oaks. That Classic form has unravelled almost instantaneously and there is a statistical roadblock in that it is almost 30 years since a three-year-old filly - Pawneese in 1976 - won the race.

A one-eyed look is required to support Bago. On his Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe form Jonathan Pease's colt would be unavoidable but, on his latest outing, in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, he should be conducting a profession in conjunction with a milk cart.

It has recently emerged though that BAGO (nap 4.20) had been suffering from a back problem and is apparently now cured. As he is also now returned to the firmish ground which suits him so admirably, the four-year-old has all the components in place.

La Chunga will be well flagged up for the Princess Margaret Stakes following her clean kill in the Albany Stakes at the Royal meeting, a display which emphasised her prowess, but now also means she has to transport a 5lb penalty. No such fate has befallen another winner in Nidhaal (3.10), whose Newmarket success began to stack up even better yesterday when the fifth home, Silca's Sister, screamed in on the first day of the festival meeting.

The heritage handicap caravan pitches camp to take in the International Stakes, which is not far from being a repeat of the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket earlier this month. The first six from that event reoppose and it seems the time has come for Polar Magic (next best 3.45) to take his turn in the winner's enclosure.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Bago (Newbury 4.20)

NB: Polar Magic (Newbury 3.45)