” title=”Westover (left), Mishriff (centre) and Emily Upjohn: on course for the King George at Ascot”
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Westover (left), Mishriff (centre) and Emily Upjohn: on course for the King George at Ascot
By Stuart Riley
Irish Derby winner Westover and Oaks runner-up Emily Upjohn stood their ground as six runners were left in contention for Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes (3.35).
Desert Crown, the Derby winner, was removed as expected and the potential field was whittled down from 15 to six, with the two talented three-year-olds potentially lining up against last year’s runner-up Mishriff as well as reigning Arc hero Torquator Tasso, course-and-distance Royal Ascot winner Broome and Pyledriver.
Small fields have blighted the sport over the last year and the fact £1.25 million in prize-money cannot attract more than six potential runners for Britain’s most prestigious middle-distance contest will be cause for concern for many, but what it lacks for in depth it makes up for in intrigue.
‘It has all the elements you would want’
Ascot’s director of racing Nick Smith suggested the disappointing turnout was due to the lack of quality middle-distance performers in Europe. If all six go to post for the King George it will be a three-year high for the race, with just three going to post when Enable won the race for the third time in 2020 and Adayar bettering four rivals last year.
Asked if they expected a better turnout for the vast sums of money on offer, Smith said: “I think the answer is, who else? The reality is Desert Crown was going to run and this is a very good field.
“It has all the elements you would want, even without Desert Crown. You’ve potentially the best three-year-old colt, the most exciting three-year-old filly in training, the Arc winner and Mishriff who brings the Eclipse form.
“We’ve seen this throughout the summer. The Eclipse had a small field, the Prince of Wales’s, the Coronation Cup, the horses just aren’t there. It’s quite hard to say what horse could you put in that field that’d make it a better race – apart from Desert Crown, who was going to run?”
Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)
title=”Emily Upjohn: set for the King George after missing last weekend’s Juddmonte Irish Oaks”
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Emily Upjohn: set for the King George after missing last weekend’s Juddmonte Irish Oaks
Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)
The World Pool requires seven runners for its most popular bet, the Swinger, but Smith added: “Elite fields, if they are genuinely elite, are smaller than you’d want. Clearly we’d love to have seven or eight runners for a race in the World Pool. It would be a help, but it’s not entirely binary to look at size of field for betting performance.
“The depth of the field is also important and races like this where you have a favourite who is opposable can do well. It wouldn’t be stretching to say all six are potential winners. If you have a 1-3, 1-4 favourite, that’s not good, but as long as the race has a competitive field it doesn’t affect betting turnover too adversely, but obviously it’d be crass to say an extra runner or two wouldn’t help the World Pool.”
Ascot has switched some races from the Friday card and boosted prize-money in an effort to ensure its field sizes hold up for World Pool purposes and Smith added: “We can’t guarantee we’ll deliver that, but the King George aside you’d be hopeful we’d meet the seven-runner plus per race for all the other races. We need seven to make the World Pool tick.”
Conditions at Ascot on Monday were good to firm, good in places with watering under way as Britain baked on the first of two days under a red-alert heatwave.
Clerk of the course Chris Stickels said on Monday afternoon: “The watering on the straight course is done for the day and the watering on the round course will be done this evening. We’ll probably do the same tomorrow.
“We’re putting more on than is coming out at the moment with a view to not watering on Wednesday. We’ll watch to see if we get an odd shower before we decide for Thursday because we’d like to water the day before the meeting if at all possible.
“In a normal week we would put on 10mm every other day to combat the evapotranspiration but this week we’ll go a bit early because it’s so hot and then we’ll prepare ourselves to make our minds up Wednesday as to what we do towards the end of the week, depending on the forecast.
“The storms forecast for the end of the week are to the east of us. Although we could have a shower or two on Friday, we’re not looking at huge volumes.”
King George confirmations
BroomeAidan O’Brien MishriffJohn and Thady Gosden PyledriverWilliam Muir and Chris Grassick Torquator TassoMarcel Weiss WestoverRalph Beckett Emily UpjohnJohn and Thady Gosden