Racing: Strategic advice from Cole is to relish the race

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The Independent Online
It is a measure of the calibre of horse that will turn up for duty in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday that the outsider of the field of eight is a Group One winner. Strategic Choice may have won across Europe, in Britain, Ireland, France and Italy, he may have dead-heated for third place with Helissio in last year's Japan Cup, yet he can still be backed at 50-1.

The average official rating of the athletes before us at the weekend will be 125, which puts much meat on the claim that this is the highest quality contest seen for some time. "And I've got good form with the whole field," Paul Cole, Strategic Choice's trainer, said yesterday. "I've beaten Singspiel with Posidonas [in last year's Princess Of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket], and Strategic Choice himself ran him to a length and a bit in Japan when he dead-heated with Helissio. Shantou beat me only two and a bit lengths the other day [in the Gran Premio di Milano at San Siro] so we've got very good form. It's just that there is nothing to suggest he can turn these little distances around.

"I'd have to be a complete idiot to say I fancied our chances, but I think we have a chance of getting into the first four."

If Strategic Choice does not make it into the money he is unlikely to banish his owner to the soup kitchens. Martyn Arbib, who also owns Salmon Ladder and formerly collected prizes on behalf of Snurge, was recently accorded the distinction of being Britain's second most successful entrepreneur by Enterprise magazine. The founder of the fabulously successful investment house, Perpetual, was in Barbados this week looking over the pad he has just had built. The architect's scrolled plans are not believed to have involved much use for corrugated iron.

While Strategic Choice, at six, is the oldest horse in the race, the youngest, Kingfisher Mill, is the sole standard bearer for the Classic generation, a fact which Cole believes prevents the King George from being one of the truly great races. "I think the race is missing something because it would be nice if there was a proven Group One three-year-old in the race," he said.

"On the other hand, horses are very unsound beasts and we're lucky to assemble in one piece this calibre of field. I don't think the media and the public realise that trainers are battling to keep their horses sound 365 days a year. To assemble so many good horses in one race is very rare and we ought to sit back and relish it."

Strategic Choice was third to Lammtarra and Pentire in the King George two years ago and will struggle to repeat that position. "There are question marks about some of the others but they're such good horses that they will be difficult to beat," Cole said. "My feeling about Helissio is that he is not at his best on this [fast] ground. He is very much a French horse in that respect. On the other hand, the faster the ground the better for Strategic Choice."

It is a French race which has come to overshadow the King George, and Cole considers that even an encounter as potentially thrilling as Saturday's cannot compete with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe simply because of its place in the calendar. "The King George is still a massive race," he said. "But the reason that the Arc is such a great race is that everybody has had time to savour all the horses by the time it comes along. You build up knowledge, an acquaintance and association with these horses and the Arc is like coming to the end of the storybook. This is a fantastic race for bloodstock, but the Arc provides the finish of the book and that's why it is a little more exciting."

RICHARD EDMONDSON

NAP: Outsourcing

(Brighton 2.00)

NB: Little Acorn

(Sandown 4.25)

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