THE King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes has had a knack of producing great races and if Grundy versus Bustino, the 1975 vintage, was widely considered the race of the 20th century, Saturday’s epic encounter between Enable and Crystal Ocean will surely be a contender for the accolade this century. (Scroll down for replay).
Races described as “great” beforehand rarely live up to the hype but this did in spine-tingling fashion as the two highest-rated turf horses in the world went stride for stride, never separated by more than a head, for the full 500m of Ascot’s straight.
But John Gosden’s mare, winning her ninth Group One race and her second King George, simply refused to lie down and, in the last few strides, the 8-15 favourite extended the margin of her superiority to a neck in a race that Frankie Dettori, the winning rider, described as the “hardest Group One race” of his career.
Much has been made of jockeys going overboard with the whip at the end of valuable races but there was a first prize of £550,000 on the line here and, after that initial smack, Dettori never picked up his whip again because, as he pointed out, Enable kept responding.
“What hasn’t she won?” he asked after winning the race for the sixth time. “We’re on the road to Longchamp [where she will bid to become the first horse ever to win three Prix de L’Arc de Triomphes.] It was an amazing race.
“They went very fast and I wanted to get a bit more forward. I wasn’t that comfortable and I wanted to get on Crystal Ocean’s tail. I jumped him at the top of the straight which, I think, caught him a bit by surprise, and then he has fought back.
“I was riding on instinct [not hitting her] and I always thought I was holding him. She is an amazing, extraordinary horse. She has the ability, she’s courageous and she’s uncomplicated. I love her and let’s enjoy her. In all my career it’s the hardest Group One I ever had. Now I deserve an ice cream.”
“I think we start with the draw,” Gosden reflected afterwards. “When you’re drawn wide, it’s a problem. You’ve got to get in, and Frankie was in the position of looking to get in and he’s four wide. Then he drops back a bit and he’s three wide. He didn’t want to go around Swinley Bottom three wide so he drops back again and he’s two wide.
“He’s well off Crystal Ocean and in the end I think that affected how he rode the race. Then she carried him back into the race between the five and the four and suddenly I thought, my God, he’s moving rather early. So I’ve given him a ticking off already! I said, ‘You hit the front too soon!’
“Then he hit the front and Crystal Ocean, magnificent horse that he is, comes back at her and gets his head in front and then you have a proper race and she comes back at him again. For a crowd-exciting moment, you couldn’t ask for more than for the best older horse and the best older filly to take each other on in a race of that quality.
“But she said no, I’m going to win this race. So much of this is mental strength in horses. She showed it and he showed it today.”
Khalid Abdullah bred Frankel, now he has Enable. “Great races are never made by one horse,” his racing manager, Lord Grimthorpe, said in tribute to the runner-up. “But she toughed it out and won like a champion.”
-extracts: The Telegraph (Marcus Armytage)