Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck set for Enable and Crystal Ocean Ascot clash

Enable and Crystal Ocean in a King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes for the ages at Ascot on Saturday.

Anthony Van Dyck, who narrowly prevailed in a blanket finish at Epsom, will become only the fourth Derby winner this century to take on the older brigade in the Qipco-backed King George – a race previously renowned as a battleground between the best of the generations.

No Derby winner has run in the King George as a three-year-old since Workforce was a beaten odds-on favourite behind Harbinger in 2010, but on Sunday Aidan O'Brien delivered news to delight racing fans and add intrigue to the midsummer showpiece.

O'Brien said: "The plan is to run Anthony Van Dyck on Saturday – we're happy with him. Sovereign, who won the Irish Derby, is on a break and won't be running and neither will Magical, who is also on a break.

"Hunting Horn, Magic Wand and Norway are all entered and are possible runners, although we won't be finalising plans until later in the week."

The participation of Enable and Crystal Ocean, whose Prince of Wales's success was rated the best performance of 2019, had already ensured it would be a stellar edition of the 1m4f Group 1. But the presence of a leading performer from the Classic generation has added extra spice which has officials at the course believing the King George could be the race of the season.

Ascot's director of racing and communications Nick Smith said: "I don't think we could possibly be more pleased with the race. It's hard to imagine there will be a stronger race run in Britain, if not in Europe, this season. The King George is a great race for a summer showdown and I can't remember a race of this degree in some time. 

"It's great for racing. In a golden summer of sport it would be wonderful if racing can play its part through this race."

When asked to compare the strength of this year's King George to past editions, Smith added: "It's pretty unprecedented. I think it feels a bit like when Swain won his second race in 1998, where there is strength in depth and everything who can run is running."

Anthony Van Dyck, who finished second in the Irish Derby on his most recent start, is 15-2 with William Hill to become the first horse for more than two years to topple Enable.

The John Gosden-trained mare, who won the race as a three-year-old in 2017 and is 4-6 to regain the title she was unable to defend last year through injury, will be ridden by man-of-the-moment Frankie Dettori, whose Irish Oaks victory on Saturday made it a remarkable eight Group 1s in 51 days. 

The rider also had the option to partner Crystal Ocean, whose trainer Sir Michael Stoute has won the race a record six times. James Doyle, who won the race aboard Poet's Word last year, has been booked to take the mount. 

O'Brien has landed the King George four times, but only Galileo in 2001 managed to score as a three-year-old.

As well as Workforce and Galileo, Kris Kin – who was third to Alamshar in 2003 – is the only other Derby winner to have tackled the race as a three-year-old this century.