Not even the brilliant Aidan O’Brien can be sure Duke Of Marmalade will stay the extra distance of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
The 10-11 favourite with Coral goes into the race on the back of three Group One wins already this season after victories in the Prix Ganay, Tattersalls Gold Cup and an imperious performance in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
But in 12 career starts he has yet to race over a mile and a half.
“I’m happy with him and everything has been good since Ascot,” said the Ballydoyle handler.
“At two he injured his shin at Goodwood and he had to get a couple of screws and a plate inserted. We found that they were bothering him, but we got it sorted over the winter and he has been a different horse this year.
“We were happy with him going into the Ganay, his work was very good and we knew what he was able to do last year carrying an injury.
“It was the same story in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, he came forward again and won nicely.
“All any horse can do is win those Group Ones, some horses shy away from them. He didn’t do a lot when he hit the front at Ascot, but we were delighted with him.
“There’s loads of races for him after this and we always take one race at a time, but this is his first time over a mile and a half and we don’t really know what is going to happen when he goes past a mile and a quarter, it’s going to be interesting.”
The decision to run a doubtful stayer in the mid-season championship rather than the likes of Soldier Of Fortune has taken some by surprise, but O’Brien says it was a simple choice.
He told At The Races: “This horse has won three Group Ones and Soldier Of Fortune had already had two runs – we decided to give him a mid-summer break with an autumn campaign in mind so the decision was easy enough.
“He’s very good this horse, his physique, pedigree, mentally, attitude, everything about him. He just wins his races and is very professional.”
After initially looking like partnering Michael Stoute’s Ask in the race it now looks like Ryan Moore has switched to stable companion Papal Bull, if the market vibes are to be believed.
Papal Bull is 7-1 from 14-1 with Coral while Ask has drifted to 10-1.
“Every shrewdie on our books has been backing Papal Bull today and with Ask drifting like a barge on the exchanges and with the ground at Ascot riding fast, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to suspect that Ryan Moore is going to ride Papal Bull and Ask is going to miss the race,” said Simon Clare, Coral spokesman.
King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes 10-11 Duke Of Marmalade, 5-2 Youmzain, 7-1 Papal Bull, 8-1 Macarthur, 8-1 Lucarno, 10-1 Ask, Mount Nelson, 20-1 Literato, 66-1 Petara Bay, Red Rock Canyon.