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Weather adds more mystery to King George conundrum

J A McGrath

As if trying to find the winner of Ascot’s G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is not hard enough, the weather threatens to play its part in proceedings.

If only we knew for certain that it will rain. Thunderstorms are forecast for the pocket of Berkshire that contains Ascot. But will they arrive in time to soften the ground for the King George?

There is no doubt the key to this renewal is the multiple G1 winner Cracksman, whose participation hinges entirely on there being ‘sufficient rain.’

He hacked up in the G1 Champion Stakes at Ascot last autumn, and when he won first-up at Longchamp early in this campaign, he looked set to dominate at the highest level for the remainder of the season.

But he then worked hard to win the G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom, and was comprehensively beaten into second by Poet’s Word in the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

On his best form, the John Gosden-trained four-year-old can win....but is he at his best?

Crystal Ocean is a rapid improver, having recorded a winning hat-trick this season following a three-year-old campaign that featured a fine second to Capri in the G1 Doncaster St Leger.

Crystal Ocean has never been out of the first three in nine starts.

An interesting footnote is that Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean are trained by Sir Michael Stoute, and both are ridden by Godolphin jockeys, James Doyle and William Buick, respectively.

The only three-year-old in the field, Rostropovich, was runner-up to Godolphin’s Old Persian in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes and second to Latrobe in the G1 Irish Derby at the Curragh.