The 59th running of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes will be remembered less for the glittering quality of the participants and more for the quantity of statistics it produced.
The first three home – Conduit, Tartan Bearer and Ask – all, uniquely in this particular contest, hailed from the same stable, that of Sir Michael Stoute, the £890,600 prize money haul virtually guaranteed that he will end the season with the trainers' title. Conduit's victory was the 50th at the top level for the pale blue silks of Ballymacoll Stud. It was a fourth King George for Stoute, but a first for the champion jockey Ryan Moore.
With such an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, Moore also faced the embarrassment of making the wrong choice, but his judgement proved spot-on. The trio of stablemates, in the peloton early on as the Ballydoyle raiders Rockhampton, Frozen Fire and finally Golden Sword, led in turn, came clear of the pack in the straight and hurtled towards the final furlong together. It was only in the last 150 yards that Conduit asserted by a length and three-quarters, with Tartan Bearer, in the same silks, repelling Ask by a head.
The trio are high-class, tough performers, and Conduit, who added this to Group One success in the St Leger and Breeders' Cup Turf, must now be considered the best of the older brigade. But over the occasion hung the spectre of the absence of brilliance, chiefly in the shape of the unbeaten Derby winner Sea The Stars, who had left Conduit trailing in his wake in this month's Eclipse.
Conduit followed Shergar (1981), Opera House (1993) and Tartan Bearer's brother Golan seven years ago on to the Freemason Lodge roll of honour. "It's all a bit special," said the trainer, "and I have to say was very nice to watch. A lot of races don't go smoothly, and plans don't work out but this was one time it all came together. I'm proud of all three horses – they're all lovely, honest horses and a pleasure to have in the yard – and thrilled for those who look after them. I'm particularly pleased that Ryan was on the right one, as he's done great work with all of them in bringing them on."
Moore delayed his announcement of his King George mount until the last minute, but there was never really any doubt in his mind, right from the time that the Dalakhani colt dropped back from his Doncaster marathon to a mile and a half at Santa Anita last October. "We thought from then he'd probably be our King George horse," he said. "We didn't realise then we'd have three in it but I always thought I'd ride him. The race went very smoothly; I got in behind Mick [Kinane, on Tartan Bearer] and he's never a bad man to follow on these occasions."
As Conduit, the 13-8 favourite, went past Tartan Bearer he bore slightly right a deviation that earned Moore a three-day ban for careless riding. "When he got to the front he had a look and shifted slightly," the rider added. "These things happen, and I wasn't going to start pulling him around to correct him just as he was going to win his race."
The King George is increasingly shunned by the Classic generation as trainers fight shy of taking on battle-hardened older horses over 12 furlongs at the height of the summer to the possible detriment of valuable late-season targets and a colt's stud value. The first three-year-old home yesterday was Alwaary, who overtook Golden Sword for fourth.
The four-year-olds Conduit and Tartan Bearer were brought up together at Ballymacoll Stud in Co Meath, and yesterday was very much Conduit's revenge. The little colt lost his mother at birth and was bullied by his fellows, chief among his tormentors the bigger Tartan Bearer. The problem disappeared after Conduit was moved to the company of foals younger than he, which gave him confidence.
"When they're babies, it's just like running a school," said Ballymacoll manager Peter Reynolds, "and you deal with personality clashes as and when they occur. Today was a great result, and it's great to see the firm's colours up there. We're competing against some heavy hitters in Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers, and John Magnier's team, and it's nice to have something to take them on with."
Conduit, the first St Leger hero to take the Betfair-sponsored midsummer showpiece since Alcide 50 years ago, is 8-1 to emulate his sire by winning the Arc, fourth favourite behind three-year-olds Fame And Glory, Sea The Stars and Stacelita.