Sir Michael Stoute saddles the two market leaders in the feature Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot (3.40) but remains non-committal as to which of Crystal Ocean and Poet’s Word he believes has the better chance.
The participation of the high-class Cracksman will not be confirmed until very late in the day with last season’s Champion Stakes and this season’s Prix Ganay and Cornoation Cup hero requiring rain to ease the ground in order for him to be given the green light by John Gosden to take his chance. Thunderstorms are forecast for the south-east but they will be sporadic and could strike some areas and completely miss others. The ground remains ‘Good to Firm’ going into the day of the big race.
“They have separate owners and it’s a logical race for both of them mid-season,” explained Stoute when asked why he was running both his stars in the showpiece Ascot contest. “The official handicapper has 1lb between them … and we don’t work them together at home. They’re very easy and straightforward horses. Crystal Ocean has won all three of his starts this year and he’s won at Ascot over the course and distance. The ground may be fast, but actually he’s impervious to ground, so I’m not concerned about that. He’s entitled to go and take his chance, for sure.
“Poet’s Word’s best performance to date, [came] in the Prince of Wales’s (see above). [Cracksman] may not have been at his best, but even so, the others were a long way back. It was a good performance. He ran very well in the Sheema Classic too (over a mile and a half), so he is effective over that trip as well. My horses have decent form and are first and second favourite. They may not finish first and second, but they are entitled to be in there.”
Crystal Ocean is a 5/2 shot with Betfred, while Poet’s Word is also offered at 5/2 with bet365. Cracksman is an 11/4 chance with Sportingbet, and the remaining five contenders are priced at 14/1 and upwards. They include the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Rostropovich and Hydrangea, John Gosden’s second-string Coronet, Sylvester Kirk’s Coronation Cup runner-up Salouen, and David Simcock’s Desert Encounter.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.