All eyes will be on Telescope as the much-vaunted colt finally gets the chance to fulfil his destiny when he goes for Group One glory in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot today.
Some of his ardent supporters would have expected him to have had the opportunity earlier, preferably in last year’s Derby, but trainer Michael Stoute is renowned for his patient approach.
When the Epsom Classic in 2013 was ruled out after Telescope suffered a setback, Stoute has been firmly focused upon doing his utmost to ensure the horse reaches his full potential.
The son of Galileo took a giant stride to repaying his connections’ faith when running away with the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting.
Sights have been firmly set on the King George since then and Harry Herbert, racing manager to owners Highclere, cannot wait to see Telescope strut his stuff in the mile-and-a-half contest.
“Given the size and pedigree of him, there was every chance he would be reaching his peak about now. It is what Sir Michael excels at and Telescope ticks a lot of those boxes,” he said.
“Last year it got everyone rattled and annoyed. He became a talking horse.
“The Hardwicke was the first time since the Voltigeur that we’ve seen him on decent ground and could use that stride that we know he’s got.”
Telescope has certainly not frightened away the opposition, with several smart rivals taking up the challenge.
The King George has been famed over the years for its clashes of the generations and this one is no exception, with Taghrooda, impressive winner of the Investec Oaks, defending an unbeaten record.
The decision to run Taghrooda caught many by surprise but owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s sporting policy has to be applauded.
In receipt of 15lb from Telescope, John Gosden’s charge will be no pushover.
“John Gosden said, particularly if she is going to retire at the end of the season, she’s not going to have many more races, so why don’t we have a go at a big one with her?” said Angus Gold, Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager.
“She’s a Classic winner and it’s not like a stallion we’re trying to promote.
“We’re going to be keeping her to breed from, so I think Sheikh Hamdan felt he’d like to be adventurous and have a go at a big one.”
It was expected Mukhadram would be Sheikh Hamdan’s main hope and, despite Taghrooda’s presence, the Coral-Eclipse winner still gets the chance to step up to a mile and a half for the first time.
“Mukhadram is fine, he is in good shape. We had a little blip last week with a minor foot problem but he seems well now,” said trainer William Haggas.
“I have been anxious to step him up to this distance for a while, but now that the day gets closer I am not so sure. Saturday will tell us everything.
“He should get his ideal conditions – a nice, warm day and fast ground, which he loves – so we will just have to see what happens.”
A mile and a half and fast ground should be ideal conditions for the Aidan O’Brien-trained Magician, whose career-best performance to date arguably came in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November.
“He’s in good form and the ground should be lovely. I’m looking forward to seeing him run,” said O’Brien.
The other Irish handler represented is Jim Bolger, who saddles last year’s Irish Derby hero Trading Leather and the rank outsider Leitir Mor.
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