David Ord is counting down his favorite renewals of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes at Ascot.
We want your favorite King George renewals. Email them to email@example.com with the reasons why and we will post the answers at the bottom of this article.
7. REFERENCE POINT, 1987
There have been easier winners from a King George than a benchmark, but few braver.
But we already knew about him. After all, he had done everything to win the Derby, fending off a host of challengers on the Epsom straight before hitting the line a length and a half ahead of Most Welcome.
He had been bested in the Coral-Eclipse en route to Ascot but was swept away on his shield, narrowly failing to draw the sting of the wondrous Mtoto into an epic clash.
In the King George he faced Oaks Unite double heroine Triptych, third at Sandown and five-time Group 1 winner, German superstar Acatenango, Irish Derby winner Sir Harry Lewis and St Leger’s hero of the year previous, Moon Madness.
And coming back he was off the bridle, Steve Cauthen working hard, but behind it was getting tough for the rest too.
The crucial moment came five strides into that turn, when his momentum and class carried Reference Point three lengths ahead of the chasing pack. Relentlessly and without remorse, he set sail for home and was not for catching.
Triptych and Celestial Storm emerged from the back of the field to try and chase him away – and for a fleeting moment the furlong post approach looked possible.
But the backlog reduction effort took its toll and the benchmark was again three steps ahead of the line. Hard and shiny. A powerful blend.
1987 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes
6. PETOSKI, 1985
A race that still burns in the memory – more than 35 years later.
Petoski wasn’t supposed to win this. He was a talented colt, who proved discolored when well beaten in the Derby, weakening down the straight after at least trying to get close to Slip Anchor around Tattenham Corner.
He had since won the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket, but look what he was up against. Oh So Sharp, brilliant winner of the 1000 Guineas and Oaks. Law Society, trained by Vincent O’Brien, who finished second at Epsom before plundering the Irish Derby.
There was Rainbow Quest, which won an Arc and traveled to Ascot after the Coronation Cup success. Princess Pati had won the previous year’s Irish Oaks, Strawberry Road was a former Australian Horse of the Year now trained in France and there was even that year’s Japan Derby winner in the form of Sirius Symboli.
It was a cosmopolitan mix and they produced one of the best finishes down the straight at Ascot.
The pacemakers had done their job by the time they got home. Steve Cauthen was rowing on Oh So Sharp in the wake of the leader (infantry) and Pat Eddery was better aboard Rainbow Quest at just half a length.
The battle was joined at both poles – and by the scorer alone, Oh So Sharp had apparently weathered the storm. But behind Willie Carson and Petoski were on the move. Head down, arms flapping rhythmically, the jockey gathered momentum and smelled blood.
He cut the rail to get a clear view of the line and his willing partner didn’t need a second invite.
He was in front 50 meters from the finish and, as brave as she was, Oh So Sharp could not get revenge on him. A neck separated the pair with Rainbow Quest three-quarters the length in third and the Law Society in fourth.
An injury meant the winner was never able to race at this level again, but the placed horses continued on to glory. A grueling and convincing King George launched a surprise winner and a race to savor.
1985 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes
5. BRAVE DANCE, 1986
Although revenge is a dish best served cold, it was only lukewarm by the time Dancing Brave passed their Epsom conqueror Shahrastani to win the King George.
Their infamous Derby clash will be talked about as long as the race goes on, with the winner of the 2000 Guineas advancing swiftly and relentlessly down the straight and nearly reaching the winner despite a seemingly hopeless task.
But Shahrastani had won an Irish Derby by eight lengths afterwards and while Dancing Brave’s Coral-Eclipse triumph meant he too had a 1 next to his name on the race card, he is the hero of the Derby who was kicked out the 11/10 favorite.
He never seemed to win.
Walter Swinburn was in trouble at the start of the straight and it was clear that his stablemate Shardari was the danger for the other three-year-old star. Pat Eddery replaced Greville Starkey in the saddle aboard Dancing Brave and he gave Shahrastani a long, prolonged look as he brushed him off twice.
He was in control of the run but drifted towards the far rail as he sought to clear himself. Suddenly, Eddery’s pleas became more vigorous. Shardari had left the rail to have another crack on the new leader and was closing in again.
At the line he had dropped to less than three-quarter lengths but never looked like he was getting back to the top. Dancing Brave had dealt a blow to the classical generation and, without banishing the memories of the drama of that first Wednesday in June, had quickly reestablished itself at the top of the hierarchy.
He was to stay there too, continuing to produce one of the Arc de Triomphe’s great performances by producing a devastating turn-up to beat Bering, Tryptich and Shahrastani again in the fall. A wonderful racehorse.
4. NASHWAN, 1989
A historical revival. No horse before or since had won the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse and King George in the same season. Nashwan did – but it was close.
In Racing TV’s excellent documentary about Blushing Groom’s son, Willie Carson felt the damage had already been done before Ascot. Asking him to shut down the apparent pacemaker and Group One winner following Opening Verse on rain-softened ground at Sandown, the jockey felt he had hit rock bottom for his champion.
But he had guts as well as brilliance and needed both in the final furlong at Ascot.
Cacoethes, sidelined when he was seen as his main danger in the Derby, was there and singing. He was a different proposition from Epsom and twice, with the winning post in sight, looked like he was overtaking his rival.
The pair had the race to themselves but Nashwan dug deep to fend off their rival, winning by a neckline to the roars of the sun-drenched crowd. It was not his best performance, but certainly his bravest.
“Hearts Of Joy” – The Nashwan Story – Racing TV
3. MONTJEU, 2000
You shouldn’t win a King George on the bridle, but Montjeu did.
We knew he was brilliant. We saw it through his victories in the French and Irish Derby and the toe kick that somehow took him past El Condor Pasa in the 1999 Arc.
But nothing really prepared us for it. After all, he wasn’t passing trees. Fantastic Light had won the Dubai Sheema Classic and was to add the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Turf to his CV.
Daliapour had plundered the Coronation Cup, Shiva a Tattersalls Gold Cup and yet Montjeu treated them with contempt.
At no point did he appear to be in trouble, sauntering forward a stadium and a half and walking away despite Mick Kinane sitting still.
Applause erupted in the stands, with BBC’s JA McGrath noting it was “a tribute to a true champion” as he called him back home. And it was.
There have been deeper King George renewals but easier winners? I have never seen any.
2000 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes
2. ACTIVATE, 2019
I don’t think there is any recency bias here, after all how could this breed not be on the list?
Enable claimed a second King George, but only after fending off Crystal Ocean after another of those memorable duels that litter the history of the great race.
This was joined before the two poles, the protagonists making their challenges at the same time as pioneering Norway yielded.
There was never more than a neck between them from that point on. Enable always had the advantage, but Crystal Ocean wanted it back.
At the furlong post he threatened to grab it but, as the Ascot crowd roared, Dettori needed only hands and heels to keep the mare in front.
It was a spellbinding viewing with the subsequent winner of the Waldgeist Arc giving a futile pursuit in third.
Enable Wins King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes QIPCO
1. Galileo, 2001
Poor old Fantastic Light. Meeting Coolmore’s champions in successive years at Ascot is unfortunate by anyone’s standards – but damn it, he did fight Galileo.
The Derby winner swept forward past the two furlong marker and caught the far rail under Mick Kinane. Frankie Dettori took aim at Fantastic Light. They drifted towards their rival and the battle began.
At the furlong post there were nostrils between them – for more than a stride or three the older horse was in front, but Gailleo’s claims to greatness, on the racecourse at least, depend on what s then happened.
He found the reserves to leave. With Kinane surging, Aidan O’Brien’s charge broke his rival and was a neckline, half a length then a length ahead. Dettori accepted defeat in the final 50 yards and Galileo hit the line hard – and with daylight in between.
Fantastic Light was set to get revenge on the Irish champions in early autumn, but by midsummer it was the three-year-old who had his legs.
Another epic Ascot duel, another unforgettable horse race.
Galileo 1st King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond S. Gr.1
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