Sun set to shine on Ascot as we tip Mukhadram for the King George.
This year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes may lack a Derby winner, but that’s become the norm in recent years, and it’s now thirteen years since Galileo became the last horse to win at Epsom and Ascot in the same season.
On the other hand, we have the bonus of Taghrooda lining up, and we have to go back much further to find a filly who has achieved a comparable feat, with only grizzled veterans able to recall Pawneese’s victory over the dashing grey Bruni in 1976.
The amateur statisticians will tell you that Taghrooda cannot win on the basis that they can’t recall the last 3-y-o filly to achieve the feat, but none have even tried in recent years, and the overall record of fillies and mares in the race is much healthier, with seven wins from just fifty-six attempts for the fairer sex.
When 2012 winner Danedream became the first mare to win since Time Charter in 1983, it seemed she was ending a lengthy losing sequence, but she was, in fact, just the fifth mare to compete in the race since 1988, the others being User Friendly, Eswarah (at Newbury), Look Here and Daryakana. If Taghrooda gets beaten this year, it will be because she’s met superior rivals, and not because of some vacuous statistic.
Taghrooda won’t be favourite for the big race, with that dubious honour falling to Telescope (21/10), who ran out an impressive winner of the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal Meeting. That contest also fell to the same connections’ Harbinger four years ago prior to his scarcely credible romp in the summer highlight itself.
The pair have plenty in common, having improved markedly from three to four, but there is a possibility that some will take that link a bit too literally, and it should be pointed out that the Hardwicke is a mere Group 2 contest, and Telescope won’t be able to lord it over these rivals with anything like the same swagger. He still has the “hype horse” tag clinging to him, and defeat will merely ensure that such claims are harder to shake off.
Magician has been well touted after his second to The Fugue in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes, and he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf from John Gosden’s mare last autumn. That seems to have proved his credentials over the King George trip, but we’re far from convinced, and his victory at Santa Anita owed plenty to his speed being rationed better than that of his main opponents that day.
He’s certainly versatile, but Ascot demands more in terms of stamina. Eagle Top was also impressive in his assignment at the Royal Meeting, but the same caveat applies, with the King Edward VII billed as the “Ascot Derby”, but often an uncompetitive contest. Gosden did the double with Nathaniel in 2011, but that year’s King George is an event best forgotten.
We have fancied Mukhadram for both starts this summer, and it was clear to a blind man that he didn’t give his true running when restrained behind Magician at Royal Ascot, but was very impressive when given his head in the Eclipse. Popular opinion seems to be that his latest success was something of a fluke, but that’s arrant nonsense.
Suggesting in our Eclipse preview that he would prove a live outsider for the Arc, and we’ve no doubt in my mind that he will stay 1½m. The presence of the Oaks winner will lead many to the conclusion that he’s Sheikh Hamdan’s second string, but while it’s understandable why Paul Hanagan should stick with the unbeaten filly, that doesn’t for a second make Mukhadram a makeweight, and he can again repay backers in handsome fashion.
The BetBright Verdict
Win or each-way Selection: Mukhadram @ 12/1
Main Danger: Taghrooda