It is necessary to go right back to the Seventies to find historical support for Taghrooda’s chances in today’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Her owner, Hamdan al Maktoum, and trainer, John Gosden, will be hoping to invoke the spirits of two French runners, Dahlia and Pawneese, the first and last three-year-old fillies to capture the famous Ascot prize.
Dahlia, one of only two winners to have the taken the race twice, in 1973 and 1974, excelled on her visits to England, while Pawneese came to Berkshire in 1976 on the back of a five-length procession in the Oaks. Taghrooda won the Epsom Classic last month by almost as far but, even so, the decision to run her here rather than feed on what seemed like the easy pickings of last weekend’s Irish Oaks is a bold one, typical of connections.
Taghrooda is not the highest-rated in the field this afternoon, but she is the only one unbeaten and as such still an unknown quantity and this will go a great way towards showing just how good she is before she retires to the paddocks at the end of the season.
This is a fine renewal of the King George, but there is no outstanding rival for supporters of Taghrooda to be scared of. All of her rivals, bar Eagle Top, have been beaten at least as often as they have won.
That includes Telescope, who has not even run in a Group One contest yet, let alone won one, although he deserves respect on two counts: first for trouncing a good field at Royal Ascot last time and second for being trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who has already won five King Georges, going back to Shergar in 1981.
Recent history points to Eagle Top, also trained by Gosden and owned by Lady Bamford, who stumped up £75,000 to supplement the colt for this contest following his striking victory in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot – Nathaniel, from the same yard, trod the same path triumphantly three years ago. Gosden also saddles the Derby third Romsdal
Eagle Top is another who can be placed in the “could be anything”’ bracket – he was sick on the one occasion he was beaten, at Leicester in April – but Magician, Trading Leather and Mukhadram, though all Group One winners, will perhaps need to produce more still and the suspicion is they are as good as they are going to be.
It is difficult to tie up the various form strands of the main protagonists and the past is transmitting mixed signals. But Taghrooda (3.50 Ascot), so impressive at Epsom and in receipt of a handy weight allowance, looks set to step forward again and strike a long overdue blow for her age and sex.
With the starting prices of the last six winners of the International Handicap averaging close to 25-1, the temptation is to stab at another outsider, like Watchable, Redvers or Georgian Bay, but I suspect the heavily backed Horsted Keynes (3.15 Ascot), who finished fast but too late at the Royal meeting last time, will buck the trend.
Muthmir is another punters have latched on to following his encouraging return to action last month, but the vastly improved Line Of Reason (3.30 York) does not look to have finished improving quite yet and this fast six furlongs will be right up his street.
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