Postponed leaves it late in King George

 

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The Independent Online

The prelude included a frantic version of jockeys’ musical saddles and the late defection of the undefeated Golden Horn, but at the business end of Ascot’s midsummer showpiece the aptly-named Postponed repelled Eagle Top in a stirring finish to the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Indeed, it was a case of paradise postponed for the Milan-born trainer Luca Cumani, who has been Newmarket-based for four decades. His admirable haul of prizes in those years has included two Derbys, but he had never won this event. He could not have envisaged a more stirring manner to achieve it.

In the final furlong, it appeared that Frankie Dettori, who had switched to Eagle Top, the 5-2 favourite – at the expense of Richard Hughes, who retires from race-riding next Saturday – following Golden Horn’s withdrawal, would still deliver for trainer John Gosden. But the 6-1 shot Postponed, partnered by Andrea Atzeni after owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s decision in the week to replace his retained rider, Adam Kirby, came back at Eagle Top and prevailed by a nose.

Gosden’s other runner, last year’s Derby third, Romsdal, who led for much of the race, finished third. The second favourite, Sir Michael Stoute’s Snow Sky, who had defeated both yesterday’s winner and runner-up in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, was well beaten in sixth.

“I’ve been second three times in this race,” Cumani, 66, said. “Someone had said to me [recently] that I’d had a long, illustrious career. Well, not long enough – I really needed to win this. I wanted it really badly.”

When the rains arrived on Friday, the complexion of the event changed. There were doubts surrounding Golden Horn, and Cumani was by no means certain his own contender would relish the conditions. In the event, Golden Horn, this year’s Derby winner, was withdrawn after Gosden had walked the course and deemed the soft going unsuitable. It was a decision made with great reluctance. This was a race his owner Anthony Oppenheimer – formerly company president of De Beers, who sponsored the event for 34 years – dearly wanted to win with his home-bred horse. The colt will now be aimed at the Juddmonte International at York on 19 August.

A crowd in excess of 27,000 was handsomely compensated for his absence. Forty years on from the “race of the century”, when Grundy defied Bustino, this was its equal in terms of a compelling duel to the line

“It was very tight,” Atzeni said. “I thought I was beat for a few strides, but he stuck his head out and just got back up on the line. He’s very tough. But I didn’t think he liked soft ground, to be honest. If it was me I wouldn’t have run the horse.”

Atzeni admitted he felt much sympathy for Kirby, who had ridden Postponed in his previous three starts, most significantly in a controversial Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, when the horse finished third behind second-placed Eagle Top, whose trainer, Gosden, had been highly critical of the rider’s tactics. “I feel sorry for Adam, really,” Atzeni said. “It was his ride. He understands. He knows the owner wanted a change. It wasn’t up to me.”