Taghrooda Flies to King George Triumph

Taghrooda Flies to King George Triumph
Photo: Trevor Jones
Taghrooda comes home strong to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
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Taghrooda rallied from the back of the field and became the first reigning Investec Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) winner in more than three decades to capture the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) July 26 at Ascot.
 
The unbeaten Sea The Stars filly, taking on older males, rolled past runner-up Telescope and third-place finisher Mukhadram in the closing stages and tallied by three decisive lengths. She is the first Oaks winner to capture both that classic and Great Britain's top middle-distance event in the same year since 1976.
 
Owner/breeder Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes with the great Nashwan in 1989. He had a strong hand this year with Taghrooda, trained by John Gosden, and Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) runner-up and recent Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I) winner Mukhadram, trained by William Haggas.
 
Mukhadram briefly appeared poised to capture the King George and QE II after tracking pacesetter Leitir Mor from second and then dispatching that rival into the straight to lead. He was soon challenged by 5-2 favorite Telescope, but Taghrooda came calling a furlong out. She swept past both in the final 150 yards for the commanding victory with Sheikh Hamdan's retained rider Paul Hanagan.
 
In the early stages it was Leitir Mor who sprung quick from the gate to lead with Robert Whelan, laying down fast fractions as Mukhadram pursued from second, three to four lengths back under Dane O'Neill. Ryan Moore settled Telescope in behind the first two, and Hanagan bided his time with Taghrooda, settling the filly in seventh in the eight-horse field. 
 
Mukhadram took closer order to the pacesetter on the final turn and drew even into the stretch before wresting the advantage. Telescope advanced to challenge Mukhadram with a furlong remaining, but after progressing with Taghrooda around the turn, Hanagan had his filly in striking distance third in the stretch. She closed with powerful strides to secure the rare double.
 
In 64 editions of the race, females have won eight times, including Dahlia's two victories in 1973 and 1974. Taghrooda joins 1976 English and French Horse of the Year Pawneese as the only fillies to complete the Epsom Oaks/King George VI and Queen Elizabeth double the same season. Other distaff winners include Danedream (2012), Time Charter (1983), Park Top (1969), and Aunt Edith (1966). Time Charter took the 1982 Epsom Oaks and won the King George and QE II Stakes the following year.
 
Telescope went to second as Taghrooda rolled past, finishing a short head in front of Mukhadram. Eagle Top was fourth, followed by Trading Leather, Magician  , Romsdal, and Leitir Mor to complete the order of finish.
 
Taghrooda, at 7-2 odds, covered 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.13 on turf rated as good to soft. The win was her fourth from as many career starts and followed her 3 3/4-length triumph in the June 6 Epsom Oaks. She earned an automatic berth into the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park Nov. 1, as the King George is part of the "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge series.
 
Gosden enjoyed his second win in the race following Nathaniel in 2011.
 
"It was a superb performance," he told Racing Post about Taghrooda's win. "I was delighted with the ride, which was lovely and patient. They went hard at it. The ground made it a little testing.
 
"She has developed very strongly since the Oaks and she has a neck on her like a colt. She showed her true worth. They were in the right position to kick off the bend. But it was lovely to see her outclass them."
 
Gosden added that the Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) Aug. 21 could be next for Taghrooda. The Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) in October at Longchamp is also a possibility, he said.
 
Bred by Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Estate, Taghrooda, is from the first crop of 2009 European Horse of the Year Sea The Stars. She is out of the of the stakes-winning Sadler's Wells mare Ezima, runner-up in the 2008 Lancashire Oaks (Eng-II). Other notable family members include 2013 Ascot Gold Cup (Eng-I) winner Estimate, and 1997 Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks (Ire-I) and Prix Royal-Oak (Fr-I) winner Ebadiyla.

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