Fans of international racing will have plenty to enjoy in England over the next week. A handful of important Group 1 prizes are on the agenda, led by a stellar renewal of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. (G1) at Ascot.
Let’s run through the entries and check out all the major races on the agenda:
Ascot, England, Race 5: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. (G1, 10:35 a.m. ET)
Hands down, the best race taking place in Europe over the next week is the King George. As part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, the prestigious 1 1/2-mile race awards a “win and you’re in” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar.
As a betting race, the King George isn’t the most appealing. Just half a dozen horses have been entered, including a heavy favorite. But from a sporting perspective, the King George is a race you absolutely don’t want to miss.
The big name to know is Love, a sensational 4-year-old filly conditioned by world-renowned trainer Aidan O’Brien. The daughter of Galileo developed into a beast last season, rattling off blowout victories in the 1000 Guineas (G1), Epsom Oaks (G1), and Yorkshire Oaks (G1) during a brief campaign. Even better, she kicked off 2021 with a determined victory in the Prince of Wales’s S. (G1) at Royal Ascot, in which she defeated 2020 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Audarya by three-quarters of a length.
The Prince of Wales’s S. took place over 1 1/4 miles, a distance arguably shorter than Love’s best. She also wasn’t cranked for a peak effort in her first run of the season, so Love is eligible to take a big step forward while stretching out over 1 1/2 miles in the King George.
But victory isn’t guaranteed. A deep group of challengers will face Love in the King George, including the improving three-year-old Adayar. A Godolphin homebred trained by Charlie Appleby, Adayar fired off a huge effort to win the 1 1/2-mile Epsom Derby (G1) last month, dominating his rivals by 4 1/2 lengths.
The Epsom Derby marked a big step forward off Adayar’s previous form, and it’s fair to wonder if he can repeat the feat in the King George. But on the bright side, Adayar gets into the race carrying just 122 pounds, eight fewer than Love’s 130-pound assignment.
One logical contender quite familiar to U.S. racing fans is Mishriff. Last year’s Prix du Jockey Club (G1, French Derby) hero was a force to reckon with during the winter and early spring. First, he proved his worth on dirt in the $20 million Saudi Cup, beating American stars Charlatan and Knicks Go in the 1 1/8-mile event. Then he switched to turf and stretched out over 1 1/2 miles for the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), where he defeated Japanese stars Chrono Genesis and Loves Only You in a three-way driving finish.
Mishriff recently returned from a layoff to finish third in the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse S. (G1) at Sandown. With this preparatory run under his belt, Mishriff figures to take a step forward in the King George, though carrying 133 pounds against this caliber of competition is a formidable task.
Completing the King George field are Irish Derby (G1) runner-up Lone Eagle, 2020 British Champions Fillies and Mares S. (G1) winner Wonderful Tonight, and recent Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) winner Broome.
Goodwood, England, Race 4: Goodwood Cup (G1, 10:35 a.m. ET)
Final entries have yet to be drawn for this two-mile test of stamina, but four-time defending Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius is a heavy favorite in the early betting. No horse had won the Goodwood Cup four times before Stradivarius came along, so if he can record a fifth straight win in the prestigious event, he’ll cement his status as a legend in his own time.
But Stradivarius is seven years old, and he exits a sub-par fourth in the 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot. If Stradivarius has lost a step, then Gold Cup third-place finisher Spanish Mission—a two-time Group 2 winner who won the 2019 Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park—can potentially steal the show.
Goodwood, England, Race 4: Sussex S. (G1, 10:35 a.m. ET)
The field for the Sussex is still coming into focus, with a dozen runners remaining eligible at this stage of the entry process. Major names in the mix include 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Order of Australia, 2000 Guineas (G1) and St. James’s Palace S. (G1) winner Poetic Flare, Queen Anne S. (G1) runner-up Lope Y Fernandez, Falmouth S. (G1) winner Snow Lantern, and 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) runner-up Battleground.
Goodwood, England, Race 4: Nassau S. (G1, 10:35 a.m. ET)
As with the Sussex, the final field for the Nassau is still unclear. But early wagering has established 2020 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) heroine Audarya as the favorite to win this 1 1/4-mile turf test, and understandably so. The five-year-old mare kicked off 2021 with a strong runner-up effort behind Love in the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales’s S. (G1) at Royal Ascot and will surely be tough to beat at Goodwood.
But Audarya isn’t the only Group 1 star in the prospective field. While Love, Wonderful Tonight, and runaway Epsom Oaks (G1) winner Snowfall are expected to pass the race, Falmouth S. (G1) 1-2 finishers Snow Lantern and Mother Earth, Aidan O’Brien’s Prix de Diane (G1, French Oaks) winner Joan of Arc, and Pretty Polly S. (G1) winner Thundering Nights are all possible starters.
Thundering Nights in particular is an intriguing player. Two starts back, the four-year-old filly shipped to the U.S. and ran second by a nose in the New York S. (G2) at Belmont Park. Then in the Pretty Polly, Thundering Nights prevailed by a neck over Santa Barbara, who came right back to win the Belmont Oaks (G1). Might we see Thundering Nights take aim at the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf?
Enjoy the racing!