1pt win Ulysses @9/1, 15:35 Ascot, Saturday

We’ve had some weak renewals of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes in recent seasons but the ten declared for Saturday’s edition buck that trend.

Much of the pre-race speculation has been around the participation of dual-Oaks heroine Enable from John Gosden’s yard, and despite only running as recently as two weekends ago she’s been declared to have a go at the older colts.

Visually she’s been very impressive in both of her Classic victories this season, earning her a lofty official mark of 120 – and the full stone in weight she gets from the older male horses has her ridiculously well-in at the weights.

In other words, if this were a handicap she’d be a stone well-in with the four- and five-year-olds, so 5/4 quotes shouldn’t be mocked for value.

I’m not sure it is such a formality, though, as she’s up against some serious opposition and her form-lines are totally unexposed against the male three-year-olds and older horses.

That’s only a positive in betting terms when looking at big prices, so, with the market leaning so strongly in her favour I suspect the more exposed form-lines have been underrated.

Highland Reel is the flag bearer for the older horses having placed in an Arc and won six Group One races across three continents.

He’s won two on his last two starts in Epsom’s Coronation Cup and Royal Ascot’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, so he’s arriving in top form.

The latter was over 10-furlongs while the King George is over his best trip of 12 and at a track he clearly loves.

He won the race last year on fast ground but, perhaps crucially, was narrowly beaten by Dartmouth over the same course and distance on softer ground in the start prior to that at Royal Ascot.

His form is clearly a notch lower when there’s rain about as under-par efforts in Dubai, Ascot and Leopardstown all shared that same common denominator.

That said, I’m cautious of ruling out his 5/1 quotes as, if Enable disappoints, he’s the form horse in the race and would be overpriced regardless of the ground.

His year-younger full-brother Idaho also takes his chance but, despite a good win at Royal Ascot in the Hardwicke Stakes, he will need to step up significantly to win a King George and jockey bookings suggest he’s second in the yard’s pecking order.

Jack Hobbs is known to enjoy softer ground and won the Dubai Turf in March, beating Highland Reel and other classy horses with ease on similar going.

That was a very impressive performance – his best since his three-year-old days – meaning he was well backed for the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot yet eventually finished flat last on the fast ground.

Those are two viable excuses – as was the trip of 10-furlongs as his best is over 12, so there’s plenty of cause for optimism.

It seems quite likely that the King George has been Jack Hobbs’s long-term target this season, as he’s been lightly raced and returns to his optimum trip.

However, the market is generally agreeing and he’s now a best price of 5/1 which, for me, isn’t very enticing.

Joining Enable from the Classic generation is Benbatl, who we’ve tipped three times this season; he’s raced five times and won the two times we’ve not backed him.

What a tosser – but he’s a classy tosser (horse) and gets the weight-for-age allowance as he’s still a three-year-old.

He’s a Royal Ascot winner who goes on the softened ground too, so conditions are pretty perfect.

There are quite a lot of positives to draw us to his 20/1 price but I have major doubts about the strength of the three-year-old middle-distance colts’ form this season – and Benbatl is not one of the very best.

The Derby winner Wings Of Eagles has been retired through injury, Cliffs Of Moher, second home at Epsom, was both unlucky and outclassed in the Coral Eclipse, while Derby-third Cracksman was beaten in the Irish equivalent to Capri, whose form looks well shy of King George standard.

Basically they’re all much of a muchness and, representing the fillies’ Classic form, Enable is clearly the best three-year-old in the race so Benbatl is probably the right price at 20/1.

Sir Michael Stoute’s ULYSSES beat our tip on the day Barney Roy by a nostril to win the Group One Coral Eclipse earlier this month, and he did so giving lumps of weight away to the three-year-olds.

If he is to win this he’ll need to repeat the feat, yet the Eclipse form looks very strong to me and there’s reason to think so.

The Eclipse was over a shorter trip than this and the way Ulysses has hit the line in his last two starts suggests to me he might not be much of a stayer.

That said, the Eclipse was a clear lifetime best and he was well clear of Cliffs Of Moher, Eminent, Decorated Knight – who narrowly beat him at Ascot – and another of today’s opponents, Desert Encounter, so he looks to be improving.

Maybe he was running out of puff at the end, but he’s won and run well in 12-furlong races in the past and perhaps it’s not his stamina but his mind that stops him hitting the line hard once he gets his head in front.

He might just be idling and want something to aim at, which is a fact not lost on jockey Jim Crowley who made a big effort to deliver him as late as possible in the Eclipse and nearly saw Barney Roy snatch it back on the line.

It was a great ride with the tactics informed by his previous run in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he got ahead of the front-running Highland Reel and was then re-passed by him in the final furlong.

Did he stay? Maybe not. Did he idle? Perhaps.

Ulysses was last off the bridle at Sandown – a very stiff 10 furlongs – after traveling all over the Eclipse field, so I’m relatively relaxed about the stamina concerns given he’s 9/1, and he looks a solid bet.

Stoute is known to peak his horses as four-year-olds – which can often be frustrating for punters – so let’s hope he’s up to his old tricks again and Ulysses turns out to be the superstar he’s always been hyped to be.

1pt win Ulysses @9/1, 15:35 Ascot, Saturday (various)

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