German raider Danedream showed her grit and determination by nailing Nathaniel on the wire to win the $1,550,000 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) by a nose at Ascot July 21.
The lone filly in the field of 10 for the 1 1/2-mile test, Danedream, a daughter of Lomitas, added yet another prestigious race to her record, which already included victories in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), Grosser Preis von Berlin (Ger-I), and Longines Grosser Preis von Baden (Ger-I). The Peter Schiergen-trained Danedream now has won seven of her 16 starts, and has nabbed two of the most prestigious races in Europe.
A truly international field lined up for the King George, led by the 2011 winner Nathaniel. The John Gosden trainee showed that he was back at the top of his game with a sharp victory in the Coral-Eclipse (Eng-I) two weeks ago in his seasonal debut.
In addition to Danedream, Nathaniel was set to face Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) and Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup (Eng-I) winner St Nicholas Abbey, Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winner Dunaden, and Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) winner and Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Sea Moon.
Not to be overlooked were French classic winner Reliable Man, Tokyo Yushun (Jpn-I) victor Deep Brillante, and Nathaniel’s own stablemate Masked Marvel, who had won the 2011 Ladbrokes St. Leger (Eng-I).
After a somewhat tardy start, Robin Hood, in the race to assure a good pace for stablemate St Nicholas Abbey, shot up the rail and assumed the lead. He was followed by Dunaden and Brown Panther, with William Buick tracking them from fourth aboard Nathaniel. Jockey Andrasch Starke had Danedream settled in mid-pack near Nathaniel, as Sea Moon and St Nicholas Abbey brought up the rear.
With just over a half-mile remaining the real running began. Dunaden overtook a fading Robin Hood for the lead. Brown Panther moved into second, as Nathaniel began to edge closer on the outside.
Danedream was caught in traffic behind the front trio, so Starke angled her to the outside to find running room. Nathaniel, responding to Buick’s strong drive, overtook the frontrunners and moved into the lead. Danedream was advancing on the outside, yet had plenty of ground to make up on Nathaniel as they reached the furlong mark.
But Danedream had more to give under Starke's urging, advancing alongside Nathaniel as the duo slugged it out in the final yards to the wire. It was a tight photo at the finish, with Danedream just getting her nose down on the wire for the victory.
St Nicholas Abbey finally got into gear late in the race and closed to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Nathaniel. Reliable Man got up for fourth, with Sea Moon just a head behind him in fifth.
Final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:31.62 over the good to soft going.
The jockeys for the first three finishers received whip bans from the stewards. Starke was handed six days, Buick received two, and Joseph O’Brien got seven.
The winning connections were nonetheless delighted after the race, with Starke telling reporters, “She’s a small filly, but she’s got a big heart. She fought hard and it’s definitely the biggest moment in my life.”
Schiergen added, “It’s a good feeling. It’s very important for Germany and it’s very good for German racing. We’ll go to Baden-Baden (Grosser Preis Von Baden) next and after that we’ll go to the Arc.”
Gosden was thrilled with Nathaniel’s effort, saying, “I’m delighted with him. I didn’t know which horse had won crossing the line and I was on the line. I can’t believe in two weeks he can run two races like that back to back. It’s quite impressive.”
Gosden mentioned Nathaniel’s next targets would be the Champion Stakes (Eng-I), with possibly the Arc before that.
Aidan O’Brien was proud of the effort made by St Nicholas Abbey, saying, “He ran a great race. He has to be held up like that and we were just worried about the dead ground as he can’t quicken like he normally does.”
Danedream is owned in partnership by Gestut Burg Eberstein and Teruya Yoshida. She was bred in Germany by Gestut Brummerhof, and is out of the unraced Danehill mare Danedrop. She hails from the female family of group I winners Plumania, Groom Dancer, and Indian Rose.