Nathaniel, the lone 3-year-old in the field, drew clear from Workforce to win the $1,630,380 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes-Sponsored by Betfair (Eng-I) at Ascot July 23.
The race was marred by the fatal breakdown of dual group I winner Rewilding, who broke his left front cannon bone two furlongs from home and had to be euthanized.
The victory by Nathaniel provides the son of Galileo an automatic berth in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), since the King George is part of the “Win and You’re In” series sponsored by the Breeders’ Cup.
A small but select field of five went to the post in the King George, led by Workforce, winner of the Investec Derby (Eng-I) and Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) in 2010. Also facing the starter were Godolphin’s Rewilding, who had been victorious in both the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-IT) and Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) this season, and St Nicholas Abbey, winner of the Investec Coronation Cup (Eng-I) in June.
The two horses thought to be the outsiders were 2010 Arlington Million (gr. IT) winner Debussy and the John Gosden-trained Nathaniel, who was making the leap into group I company after having captured the King Edward VII Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot in his last start.
Debussy was expected to be the pacesetter but instead it was Nathaniel, racing a bit keenly for jockey William Buick, who went to the front after the break. He was joined by Debussy, and the pair led through the early going while setting a dawdling tempo. They were tracked closely by Workforce, St Nicholas Abbey, and Rewilding, whose riders were all playing a bit of a chess match while tracking the leaders.
Ahmed Ajtebi moved Debussy into the lead with a mile left in the 12-furlong contest, quickening the pace as he did. Buick was content to sit in second with Nathaniel, with the remaining three runners in close pursuit.
When the field entered the home straight Buick made his move and Nathaniel shot to the front, opening up quickly on the rest of the field. Ryan Moore was hard at work aboard Workforce as the Arc winner tried to cut into the 3-year-old’s lead. Workforce pulled to within a length of Nathaniel, but then began to hang to his left, drifting to the far outside rail despite Moore’s strong left-handed whip.
Nathaniel who was a clear winner by 2 3/4 lengths over Workforce, with St Nicholas Abbey in third, another 1 1/4 lengths further back. The final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:35.07 over a soft Ascot turf course.
After the race, a subdued Gosden told reporters, “It was an intelligent ride by William, and I left it completely up to him how to ride the race. He let him stride on, which was not ideal, but then again Workforce would have been better if they had gone a pace. This horse is getting better and better, and showed it today.
“My inclination is to take him straight for the Arc, with perhaps a racecourse gallop beforehand."
Nathaniel, who races in the navy blue and yellow colors of Lady Rothschild, was bred in Ireland by Kincorth Investments. He is out of the stakes-winning Silver Hawk mare, Magnificient Style, and is a half-brother to the stakes winners Stylelistick, Echoes In Eternity, Playful Act, Percussionist, Petara Bay, and Changing Skies.
Twice Over Bounces Back at York
Twice Over returned to his winning ways with an impressive 1 1/4-length victory in the Sky Bet York Stakes (Eng-II) at York Racecourse.
After disappointing in both the JLT Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) and the Prince of Wales’s, trainer Henry Cecil decided to drop the son of Observatory into group II company in order to boost the horse’s confidence. The tactic worked as Twice Over took command with over a furlong to run and won easily under regular rider Tom Queally.
Ransom Note got up for second by a short head over Dominant. The final time for the 10 1/2 furlongs was 2:09.99 over a course listed as good.