Germany’s grasp on the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes was extended in staggering fashion as Novellist shaved more than two seconds off the Ascot course record.
When Danedream ousted Nathaniel in a nail-biter last year, it was the first success for racing’s most emergent nation in an all-aged summer classic, which was inaugurated in 1951. There was no need for any scrutiny of the photo-finish this time, though, as Novellist had delivered a punishing blow to his rivals inside the final two furlongs and flashed five lengths clear of the two three-year-olds, Irish Derby winner Trading Leather and the supplemented Hillstar.
Novellist (13-2) has only been beaten twice in ten starts and is yet another example of the high-quality, middle-distance horses developed through the German breeding system. While the son of Monsun is clearly improving with age – his best previous victory had been in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud – no little credit should be attributed to his thoughtful trainer Andreas Wohler.
Wohler and jockey Johnny Murtagh, who replaced Ryan Moore and then William Buick aboard this prized spare, arrived with plenty of belief that he could repeat the defeat of decorated Group One star Cirrus Des Aigles achieved at Saint-Cloud.
The result, smashing Harbinger’s 2010 mark in a time of two minutes 24.6 seconds was utterly conclusive and Novellist will now attempt to emulate another of Danedream’s landmark achievements by striking for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, for which he is around the 5-1 mark.
“It was a great performance, but it didn’t feel like we’d broken the track record by two seconds. I was always cruising and in my comfort zone,” said Murtagh, winning the King George for the fourth time.
“I loved the way when I asked him to stretch he wanted to get on with it. He stretched well – pulling him up was probably the hardest part.”
Wohler has had few British runners, but has won races like the Arlington Million and the Dubai Duty Free. This, though, would feature at the top of the list. “I can’t describe it – it’s dreamland,” he said. “I used to come here as a kid and watch it as a kid in the school holidays and now I am here as a trainer.
“One of our strengths is we have horses who mature later and when stepped up in distance. I was confident as I knew he had improved since his last race, but I didn’t expect him to win by five lengths.”
Sir Michael Stoute was vindicated in supplementing his unexposed Royal Ascot winner Hillstar at the cost of £75,000, as he stayed on nicely for third and the prize-money leaves connections a tidy profit.
“I’m delighted with him,” said Stoute. “I don’t think we’ll be dropping him in class now and he’s going the right way.”