Danedream delivers the goods in test of courage
Filly finds Arc form to edge last year's winner in sustained finishing duel
She came to the fray rather the forgotten horse, but her reminder to the punting public could not have been more pointed. The filly Danedream was, at 9-1, only fifth market choice for yesterday's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, almost insulting to a five-length winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in record time. She rose to the slight by adding Europe's midsummer middle-distance showpiece to the autumn title she took last year, becoming in the process the first German-trained winner of the contest.
She was also the first female to win since Time Charter in 1983, and only the fourth of any sex, after Ribot, Montjeu and Hurricane Run, to take the Arc at three and the King George at four. Admittedly her victory here, by a nose from last year's winner, Nathaniel, was not as visually spectacular as her romp at Longchamp, but what it lacked in emphasis it made up for in courage.
Nathaniel, winner of the Eclipse Stakes two weeks previously, surged to the lead a furlong from the line, with the filly the only one to go with him. The pair fought a sustained duel through the last 100 yards and passed the post as one, but Danedream's was the head that dipped when it mattered to take the £567,000 prize by the minimum distance.
"I thought there was only a nose between us," said her rider, Andrasch Starke, "and I hoped it was for me. It was tight, but I had a good feeling as we went past the post as she was fighting, giving everything. You should never forget the best performance from a horse, and she did win an Arc, after all. She is unbelievably good and brave."
Danedream's trainer, Peter Schiergen, had slightly less faith, waiting for the result of the photo-finish before daring to believe his charge had bounced back from a disappointing performance in France last month. "I thought we were second," he admitted. "Last time there was no pace, but today it was strong, which suited her."
The searching gallop came courtesy of Robin Hood, who blazed the trail on behalf of his Ballydoyle stablemate St Nicholas Abbey, a creditable length-and-a-half third on ground softer than ideal. He was followed in by Reliable Man and the 2-1 favourite Sea Moon.
The riders of the first three home ‑ Starke, William Buick and Joseph O'Brien ‑ were all handed suspensions for overuse or incorrect use of their whips in the pulsating finish, respectively six, two and seven days. Nathaniel so narrowly failed to become the first dual King George hero since Swain in 1998, and the first Eclipse winner to follow up since Opera House in 1993. But in the eyes of his trainer, John Gosden, he lost nothing but the race.
"The winner is marvellous," he said, "as anyone who saw her destroy the colts in track-record time in Paris last year will realise. And she has come back to her best and just chinned us on the line.
"Full marks to her. But I'm beyond thrilled with our horse; for him to put two races in two weeks together like he has is very impressive. So full marks to him as well. And we won't run scared of taking her on again in the Arc."
There will be a chance for swift Group One compensation for the connections of yesterday's runner-up and third today at the Curragh, where the Aidan O'Brien-trained Was, winner of last month's Oaks, will try to follow up in the Irish version of the Classic. The opposition includes Shirocco Star, just a neck behind her at Epsom.
But the greater threat may come from the two upwardly mobile types in the seven-strong field, Nathaniel's stablemate Great Heavens, who put her rivals to the sword in the Lancashire Oaks two weeks ago, and the Dermot Weld-trained Princess Highway, who defeated Was in a trial at Naas before her runaway Ribblesdale Stakes victory at the Royal meeting here last month.
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