Winged Love to swoop to victory

Richard Edmondson expects a French runner to break the midsummer mould
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Why is that punters appear as if they have just come from St. Thomas' (Hospital, Lambeth), while bookmakers look as if they have returned from St Thomas (resort, Virgin Islands)? An answer to this enduring puzzle will emerge at about three o'clock today when a small horse enters the parade ring at Ascot.

Pentire was a colt so lacking in obvious ability last year that Geoff Wragg, his trainer, did not make a single grand entry for him. If someone had suggested to the Newmarket man then that Pentire would line up for today's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes he would probably have called the police. But that is exactly what will happen today when Pentire faces winners of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Derby and Irish Derby. And he will be the favourite.

The bay's unbeaten record in four races this year has drawn an ambiguous response from Wragg. He has been pleased to see the horse winning, but rather less amused to having his judgement called into question. Eventually the white-haired (probably more white since Pentire came along) trainer has settled for saying it would have been a rush to get his late-maturing horse to the Derby. This theory, sadly, has no substance. Pentire ran in a Derby trial, the Predominate Stakes at Goodwood, on his third start of the season, and over two weeks before Epsom.

The truth is that Pentire fooled Wragg. And if a man with as many big races in the locker as he has can be deceived by horses, it soon becomes clear why backers and bookies are tanned in their different ways.

Pentire has plenty against him this afternoon, though. For a start, he steps up to Group One company for the first time, which is never an easy hike as Larrocha showed in the Irish Oaks last weekend. And then he is pitted against three strong challengers provided by Sheikh Mohammed.

It is a sign of their modern-day dominance of the sport that Mrs Maktoum's boys have won five of the last seven King Georges. Sheikh Mohammed himself has won three of the last five and is on a hat-trick (as is the stallion Sadler's Wells, who is represented here by Carnegie following the successes of Opera House and King's Theatre).

Carnegie and Winged Love run in the Sheikh's personal maroon and white colours, while Lammtarra represents his Godolphin operation. The Derby winner also represents a day which is under mortar fire from several vantage points. Critics argue that the switch to a Saturday has been as successful for popularising the race as a switch to Lapland would be, while the form of the Classic itself, which is under increasing scrutiny these days, has already been badly holed. No beast that travelled around Epsom that dull day six weeks ago has won a race since.

Lammtarra, it must be said, also has several factors against him. He is returning from injury (this may be the least of his problems as he sprang from what was nearly his deathbed to win the Derby), he is not guaranteed the strong pace that suited him so well at Epsom, and he has a new rider on board.

Lanfranco Dettori, the champion jockey, may not be many punters' idea of a hindrance, but it is Walter Swinburn (banished to the flatlands of Newmarket today) who has ridden him in both his races and all his work.

While it seems inevitable that Broadway Flyer will inject the early pace, it is difficult to envisage what will happen once he drops away. The shape of the race (and the way the finishes went at Ascot yesterday) suggests victory will go to a horse that can lie handy to the pace. Andre Fabre's Carnegie and Winged Love fit the condition.

If the French bother at all in the King George it is usually with their lesser lights, but this year is different. Carnegie has won an Arc and Winged Love an Irish Derby, and both are the type of animal that is commonly put in a hay-filled box and nailed in until Paris in October comes around.

History shows that if the three-year-olds are of any import they win the King George with the allowances bestowed on them. This factor topples the balance in favour of WINGED LOVE (nap 3.20), who exhibited that he was improving in kangaroo bounds when successful at the Curragh. The colt had previously been third in the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby), in which he was by no means the animal most fancied by Fabre. Wragg will know how he felt.