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Saturday, July 21, 2012
In this afternoon's King George (4.35) at Ascot, Nathaniel will bid to become the first horse since Swain (1997/98) to win successive runnings of the Group 1 race.
A rapidly progressive sort in his three-year-old season, he ran on really strongly to see off the wayward Workforce when winning this race last year.
While he was in receipt of a very healthy weight-for-age allowance on that occasion, the form looks very strong and he had one of today's rivals, St Nicholas Abbey, well beaten back in third place.
There is a 12lb swing in the weights this afternoon but that's of little concern as, on evidence of his recent comeback in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown, Nathaniel looked better than ever as he ran powerfully to see off the challenge of Farhh with something to spare.
Although he won well, it was quite a tough race and he has had just a fortnight to recover from those exertions.
If that could be taken out of the equation, his case could be most compelling.
The return to a mile and a half should be very much in his favour and although he has a tendency to run enthusiastically, he always finds plenty.
He’s already official rated better than all bar one of his rivals and there’s every reason to expect that he can make further strides through the season.
The aforementioned St Nicholas Abbey also has history with Sea Moon, and while it speaks in favour of the former it's not certain to stand up under today's conditions.
The pair met in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs back in November and the Ballydoyle colt quickened clear in the closing stages to beat Sea Moon a little over two lengths.
There was no semblance of luck about the performance but the fast ground that day was all against Sea Moon and I’d expect the gap to narrow significantly, if not turn it the runner-up’s favour.
Michael Stoute's colt was perhaps a little unlucky in running when third behind Masked Marvel in last season's Doncaster St Leger but he showed himself an improved horse when running away with the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. He really appreciates a bit of cut in the ground, which he will get today, and that will bring his stamina into play.
In the Ascot race, Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden suffered trouble in running but picked up very well to finish a clear second. How much closer he could have finished is unclear but he has strong place claims once more.
Brown Panther split winner Masked Marvel and third-placed Sea Moon in the Doncaster St Leger and while he bounced back to winning ways at Pontefract recently, he'll need to make a giant leap forward to compete.
Danedream is officially the highest rated runner in the field but that mark came courtesy of her victory in the Prix de l'Arc and I have real doubts about the worth of that form.
It ran a peculiar race and while she won very easily, there has been nothing in her three runs since to suggest she is on the verge of a repeat. In my eyes, she has something to prove.
Japanese raider Deep Brillante is something of an unknown quantity, though he is a Group 1 winner in his native country. That victory came in the Japanese Derby at the end of May but there was a bunch finish (two lengths covered the first six home). As the only three-year-old in the race, he receives the weight-for-age allowance but it seems safe to assume that he must improve significantly to take a hand.
This is a terrific renewal of the King George and even allowing for the concern regarding the short period between this and his return in the Eclipse, Nathaniel looks the one to be on. His Eclipse victory suggests he's going to be better than ever this year and while he may have a tendency to pull quite hard in his races, the presence of pacemaker Robin Hood should help.
He will be ridden close to the pace from the off and if his rivals want the £567,000 first prize, they're going to have to pull out something special to wrest it from him.
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