By Duane Fonseca
The Beatles’ erstwhile hit ‘All You Need Is Love’ might be the tune on everyone’s lips at Ascot this Saturday as Aidan O’Brien’s terrific dual Oaks heroine Love seeks to stamp her authority and take in a fifth straight Group One victory in the form of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
And while the 4yo daughter of Galileo has set hearts racing (excuse the pun) her legendary Irish conditioner is perhaps well aware his stable star will not have it easy. The field opposing her might not be deep in terms of numbers, but it is in terms of quality, with Godolphin’s recent Epsom Derby winner homebred Adayar the pick of her five rivals.
For most of it so far, the 2400m King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes has shaped up to be a mighty duel between the aforementioned pair, with Martyn Meade’s Lone Eagle and John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff two other names among the live challengers. Still, it will take quite a bit for the rest to oppose the top two in the money, with Love showing no mercy on her return to action when winning the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes after a 300 day break, and Adayar defying the odds to win the Derby.
Love’s Prince of Wales’s victory was a fourth straight Group One success after her trio of wins which included the 1000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks, and she made absolutely no fuss as she stormed to finish three fourths of a length clear of Audarya over course and distance. That performance would have primed her up for this assignment where she receives three pounds in weight from her male counterparts, a group that includes Adayar.
O’Brien, looking for a fifth win in the race, reported he is happy with Love ahead of the big day.
“Love is good. We’re happy with her,” said O’Brien, whose main contender leaps out of Stall No.6. “Obviously she’s done very little since Wednesday, she’s only back cantering again now, but we’re very happy with her.
“To do that after a long break, we were delighted. She hadn’t had a run since the Yorkshire Oaks so we were delighted. Anything over 10 furlongs or a mile and a half is her all over. She's in the mix for all those types of races now, anything over that trip. It’s great to have her started again and now we can look at all those races.”
Appleby has enjoyed a memorable year so far with numerous top tier victories across the globe. None, however, are more worthy than Adayar’s Derby success at Epsom in June, which the Frankel colt won out of nowhere with a devastating run in the hands of Adam Kirby.
Adayar (Gate No.4) returns to the racetrack for the first time with a mighty reputation and with just Love standing in between him and a second straight Group One win. With Love improving for each run last term, that bit seems true at least on paper. Adayar will also be keen to prove his Derby win, where he beat teammate and subsequent Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner Hurricane Lane, was not just a flash in the pan.
It was a triumph of some class, but the Godolphin team behind Adayar know he faces perhaps his severest test here with Love absolutely unyielding in the hands of Ryan Moore. Appleby’s first choice William Buick replaces Kirby in the saddle.
Appleby said: “Like everybody else, we’ve got a huge watching brief on this. Everybody’s wanting to know how good the three-year-olds are, particularly at a mile and a half. We would like to see what we are dealing with, and I think the King George will provide the answers.
“Adayar is approaching his biggest challenge in tip-top condition and we are upbeat about the accepting the challenge. His prep has been faultless. We have seen him maturing week on week.
“I believe he is physically stronger than he was at Epsom. When you see him in the paddock on Saturday, he won’t look like a three-year-old against older horses. He looks like an older horse now.”
Meade was gutted after he was forced to pull Lone Eagle (No.1) out of the Derby, but the 3yo Galileo colt’s defeat by a neck by Hurricane Lane in the Irish Derby will have given his handler hope heading to Ascot particularly with Frankie Dettori keeping his place on the back of last year’s Group 3 Godolphin Flying Start Zetland Stakes winner. Lone Eagle nailed the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood in May by four lengths and the improvement between then and the Irish Derby a month later in late June is evident as he bids to emulate the feat of his dam’s sire Duke of Marmalade, who won this race in 2008.
The Gosdens will be hoping their stable star Mishriff (No.5) gets things right after making a below par return to action in Britain when taking third in the Group 1 Coral Eclipse at Sandown earlier this month. Mishriff struck gold when adding the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan to his thrilling multi-million success in the lucrative Saudi Cup at Riyadh earlier in the year. John Gosden has won half of the last ten runnings of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, with three of those wins supplied by wondermare Enable.
And the veteran English conditioner seemed pleased with Mishriff ahead of the race with Ted Voute, Racing Manager to the horse’s owner Prince Faisal, declaring: “I talked to John after Mishriff worked (last Saturday) and he was very happy with him. I thought Mishriff was a bit gassy at Sandown in the first half of the race, which happens to a lot of horses after some time off, and I just wondered whether he needed a race under his belt to get him spot on. He seemed to run very well backing up from Saudi to Dubai.
“St Mark’s Basilica is clearly a very good horse and I think it is going to take a very good horse to beat Love on Saturday. We want to win a Group One in England with Mishriff and you can’t win one unless you run in them. He has beaten some very good horses from around the world and now is the time to see what he can do against the big battalions from England and Ireland in particular.”
David Menuisier’s dual Group One winner Wonderful Tonight (No.3) is the only other filly in the sextet and she too is entitled to receiving weight and with her success over O’Brien’s Broome (No.2) (who also runs here) in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over course track and trip a sizeable boost to her reputation.
Menuisier said: “Oisin [Murphy] is a top jockey, and we think he is the best possible replacement for William (Buick, who rode her to victory in the Hardwicke).
“It’s one of those things – in summer, heat can be followed by thunderstorms, so it’s not by any means delusional to think we might get some rain. We just want to have the options open. She is a different horse this season – she’s stronger and she might handle better ground, although you cannot guarantee that. What we don’t want to do is have a hard race on good ground at this stage of the season and put her off.”
The winner of the race receives an invitation to take part in the lucrative Breeders’ Cup Turf race later this year.