Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck will be unleashed against dual Arc heroine Champion trainer John Gosden is not taking anything for granted as star mare Enable takes aim at the £1.25 million G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes (3.40pm) at Ascot this Saturday, July 27.
Enable captured the 12-furlong midsummer highlight in 2017 during a glittering three-year-old campaign that saw her win five G1 races in a row, but she was unable to defend her crown last year due to injury.
Enable, photo Liesl King
The dual G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine made a successful reappearance this year in the 10-furlong G1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park on July 6, when pushed out to win by three parts of a length from old rival Magical.
Saturday offers Enable the chance to become the third two-time winner of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes and the first this century, following Dahlia (1973 & 1974) and Swain (1997 & 1998). The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Speaking on the Warren Hill gallops during a press event in Newmarket this morning, Gosden said: "Enable has been in good form since Sandown. I thought she ran a lovely race there. Frankie had her in the correct position and she won with a bit in hand.
"She was coming off an eight-month break. She did not go for a racecourse gallop beforehand and did all of her work here in Newmarket. I would say it wasn't until we got her on a gallop she likes, the round gallop on Limekilns, that she showed her zest and old spark.
"Prior to then, she was the like the heavyweight boxer trying to get ready for a championship fight - he has been off a number of months and running the roads and being in the gym is tough mentally.
"Enable was just going through the motions, but two weeks before Sandown you saw all her passion and enthusiasm come out for racing. Suddenly, Frankie was hanging on rather than saying can we go a little faster dear. She is very assertive and knows what she wants to do. The key thing is to go with the flow and not argue with her.
"The Eclipse is close enough [to Ascot], but you are getting three weeks and hopefully that will be fine. She has just been doing routine work since Sandown. She worked on Saturday with Frankie on her. We were going to work on the grass, but we did not get enough rain so she worked on the All-Weather. She seems happy and well in the face of what will be a tall order.
"The betting industry has put her in at a price that says they don't want people to be backing her. I don't think the price is realistic of her chances (Enable is 4/6 with Ascot's official bookmaker Betfred), but I suppose they are just protecting themselves if she does win.
"Enable won the King George as a three-year-old filly getting weight, just as Taghrooda (2014) did. It is a little different when you're older and suddenly you have a Derby winner coming at you who's getting the weight, and a magnificent older horse in Crystal Ocean who ran a blinder last year and won the Prince Of Wales's Stakes well last month.
"This is no penalty kick, absolutely not. It is a really exciting race with a deep field. Obviously, Enable and Crystal Ocean set the standard and then you have the three-year-olds getting the allowances. Enable is up for it, but I just don't think it is the formality that is indicated. I see her more as even money shot against this field rather than the price she is.
"There is a weight of expectation. Enable is a great filly and a pleasure to be around. She had a very difficult year in 2018, coming back from surgery, injury and then sickness between Kempton and the Arc, and she still managed to do the job. We have had a smoother run this year and, as you saw this morning, she maintains her enthusiasm for training and racing.
"She has a great physique and a wonderful mind on her. When she came in as a yearling, the one thing that amazed me straight away was the depth of her girth and heart room. Frankie says that when she stretches in the final part of the race, he can actually feel his legs move as she gets lower and picks up. There are not that many horses he has felt that on.
"She is comfortable over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. As you saw at Sandown, she has tactical speed and that tends to help the jockey. When she won the Arc at Chantilly, it was her speed from a very tricky draw that meant she did not get boxed in.
"She is the best mile and a half filly I have trained, and what she has done has been pretty extraordinary. I admired her a lot last year, coming back the way she did. She was not at her best in the Arc, but Frankie rode a magnificent race because he knew that he did not have the petrol in the tank that he would normally have, which is why he held onto her for so long. Then when we went to America and suddenly she was coming back to her best.
"I think we probably have seen the best of her. She was good the other day and as a three-year-old. Hopefully, we can get through Ascot, then you have York and the Arc. It is a big ask for any horse, but as you saw there, right now she is proud and happy within herself."
Cheval Grand is out to give Japan a first victory in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes. Four Japanese-trained horses have contested the great G1 race, with Cheval Grand's sire Heart's Cry faring best when a close third behind Hurricane Run in 2006. The others were Sirius Symboli (1985, 8th), Air Shakur (2000, 5th) and Deep Brillante (2012, 8th). He is a 25/1 chance with Betfred.
Cheval Grand ranks among the best middle distance horses in Japan. The seven-year-old captured the G1 Japan Cup in November, 2017, and has also finished third in the two latest editions of the G1 Arima Kinen, Japan's premier all-aged contest at Nakayama in December.
On his latest start in March, Cheval Grand competed overseas for the first time when second to Old Persian in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, UAE, on Dubai World Cup Night.
Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said this morning: "When Cheval Grand ran in Dubai, he took the travelling very well, so afterwards the owner [Kazuhiro Sasaki] decided that he wanted to target more overseas races. After the King George, we are also thinking about the Juddmonte International at York and possibly the Arc.
"Cheval Grand has been in England for one week. This morning is the first time I have seen the horse since he left Japan, and his condition is the same as it was before he travelled over.
"Cheval Grand has not had many races for a seven-year-old and has a pedigree that says he will improve as he gets older. I don't think his age is a problem.
"It was always the plan to give him a break after he ran in Dubai. There will be no problems with his fitness. Cheval Grand has the stamina and power. He is the best horse I have trained, but Enable is very strong, a machine.
"Ascot is a very tough racecourse and quite tricky compared to tracks in Japan, which is why we chose Oisin Murphy to ride because he knows everything about Ascot.
"The King George has a long history and is very famous in the racing world. It would be one the high points of my career to win this race."
Cheval Grand will work on the Newmarket gallops tomorrow morning, with Murphy in the saddle.
11 go forward for £1.25 million King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes
Enable and Cheval Grand are two of 11 contenders at the five-day confirmation stage today for Saturday's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes.
The other older horses still engaged are headed by last year's neck runner-up Crystal Ocean (Sir Michael Stoute, 5/2 with Betfred), runner-up last year and successful in G1 company at Royal Ascot in last month's 10-furlong G1 Prince of Wales's Stakes.
Another winner from Royal Ascot is Defoe (Roger Varian), 12/1, with the five-year-old having scored over Saturday's course and distance in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes on June 22. Defoe is already a G1 winner in 2019, having taken the Coronation Cup at Epsom on May 31.
Hurricane Run was the latest French-trained King George winner in 2006 and his trainer Andre Fabre is represented in 2019 by Waldgeist (16/1), third behind Crystal Ocean at Royal Ascot, having won the G1 Prix Ganay impressively on his seasonal reappearance.
Heading the three-year-old challenge is Investec Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck (Aidan O'Brien, 6/1), bidding to become the first Derby victor to land the Ascot showpiece since his sire Galileo in 2001. Anthony Van Dyck's stable companion and G1 Irish Derby third Norway (100/1) is the other three-year-old still engaged. Ireland's champion Flat trainer has also left in likely pacesetter Hunting Horn (100/1) and Magic Wand (50/1), who recorded her biggest victory in the 2018 G1 Ribblesdale Stakes at the Royal Meeting.
Completing the confirmations are Hardwicke Stakes fourth Morando (Andrew Balding, 66/1) and Salouen (Sylvester Kirk, 50/1), fourth in 2018 and successful over the course and distance in the Listed Carey Group Buckhounds Stakes in May.
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes - Betfred prices:
4/6 Enable; 5/2 Crystal Ocean; 6/1 Anthony Van Dyck; 12/1 Defoe; 16/1 Waldgeist; 25/1 Cheval Grand; 50/1 Magic Wand, Salouen; 66/1 Morando; 100/1 Norway, Hunting Horn
Each-way 1/5 odds, 1-2-3