O’Brien has the aces in a poor pack

THE Ascot executive plan to promote the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes more extensively in Europe next year after the latest renewal of their midsummer highlight failed to attract any runners from the current Classic generation.

THE Ascot executive plan to promote the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes more extensively in Europe next year after the latest renewal of their midsummer highlight failed to attract any runners from the current Classic generation.

Whether that will have any positive response in future only time will tell. Regarded as the top middle-distance event in Britain, surely it can’t become just another valuable race on the strength of today’s sub-standard line-up.

One can hardly compare it to a year ago when Arc winner Hurricane Run was opposed by the Dubai World Cup hero Electrocutionist and the Japanese star Hearts Cry even though there were only six contenders, one less than this time round. The defection of Yellowstone deprived the contest of its only three-year-old, but trainer Aidan O’Brien still holds all the aces with Dylan Thomas and Scorpion.

There are ground worries surrounding Dylan Thomas, who heads the market, though it won’t be the first time that the Ballydoyle yard has landed a major prize with its “second string” and I prefer to take sides with his stable companion.

While Scorpion, who has had his problems in the last 18 months, won the 2005 St Leger on testing ground, he captured the Grand Prix de Paris on fast ground in record time, so read into that whatever you like. However, the fact he has the ability to handle an easy surface is regarded as a positive whereas it’s seen by O’Brien as a negative for Dylan Thomas who is much more effective on quick ground. After winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom last month, Scorpion failed by half a length to confirm that form with the third horse, Maraahel, on 5lb worse terms in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Now back at level weights, one would expect Scorpion to regain the initiative.

Although Dylan Thomas has been campaigned over 10 furlongs so far this year and was successful at this distance in last year’s Irish Champion Stakes, his stamina over 1½ miles is not in question as he won the 2006 Irish Derby after a third at Epsom.

There was no disgrace in being beaten by the French ace Manduro in the Prince Of Wales Stakes on his last visit to Ascot.

His head carriage when under pressure will have its critics and he may have a few little quirks as well, but he is a top-class performer at the highest level and commands utmost respect despite ground concerns.

Laverock has Group One victories in France, claiming the notable scalp of Manduro, and in Italy and, although put in his place by Papal Bull in a Group Two event at Newmarket earlier this month, he is anything but a no-hoper.

German challenger Prince Flori, third to Mountain High in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last time, needs to find more improvement to take a hand in the finish but makes more appeal than Youmzain, who was three lengths adrift of him at Saint-Cloud. Although the admirable Sergeant Cecil failed to give his true running in the Gold Cup, he has been a great advertisement for his connections and owes them nothing. He is a battle-hardened campaigner but this looks way beyond his capabilities.

In the totesport.com International, King Of Argos, beaten a neck by Giganticus in the Bunbury Cup, could get his revenge with the help of a 3lb pull, but is only a tentative selection.

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