Rain threat cause for concern for Oppenheimer

Frankie Dettori punches the air in delight after Golden Horn's victory in the Epsom Derby in June. Picture: Getty Images
Frankie Dettori punches the air in delight after Golden Horn's victory in the Epsom Derby in June. Picture: Getty Images
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The forecast of rain is giving owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer cause for concern as Golden Horn bids to continue his scintillating summer in today’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot

A brilliant winner of the Investec Derby at Epsom before seeing off They Grey Gatsby in a barnstorming renewal of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, Golden Horn goes to the well once more in Ascot’s midsummer showpiece and is long odds-on to keep his unbeaten record intact.

The horse came out of the Eclipse very well and is such a tough horse now

Anthony Oppenheimer

Connections are confident Golden Horn remains at the peak of his powers, despite a busy campaign, but are fearful of conditions in Berkshire deteriorating.

Oppenheimer said: “I think one’s always nervous before a race like this and especially when there is some rain around. The way the weather is at the moment, you don’t know how much they’re going to get, so that’s a bit of a worry.

“The horse came out of the Eclipse very well and is such a tough horse now. John Gosden has done a tremendous job with him.

“I think the decision to run in the Feilden earlier in the year rather than going for the 2000 Guineas has paid off. The Guineas might have been too much too soon.”

Golden Horn showed his versatility at Sandown three weeks ago, dominating proceedings from the start under Frankie Dettori. Oppenheimer is hopeful this weekend’s assignment will not turn into such a tactical affair. “I don’t think anybody knows what is going to happen, but hopefully it will be easier (tactically) than Sandown,” he said.

“There are more runners and, hopefully, there will be more room to manoeuvre, but we’ll just have to see what happens on the day.

“It would be very nice if he can do it.”

Gosden also admits the possibility of rain is a bigger worry than the fact the horse will be seeking a third Group One win in the space of seven weeks.

He told www.godolphin.com: “I have been asked whether we are going to the well too often. My answer is that I am more worried about the forecast of rain at Ascot than any fear that we might be overfacing him.

“I think he will be all right if it is good to soft’ but we will be in unknown territory on soft ground.”

Meanwhile, Sir Michael Stoute feels Snow Sky did not receive due credit for last month’s Royal Ascot victory ahead of his return to the track in the King George. The master of Freemason Lodge has saddled a joint-record five previous winners of the prestigious event, with the brilliant Shergar setting the ball rolling in 1981.

This year’s candidate had connections considering a trip to Australia after a tenacious Yorkshire Cup triumph in the spring, but his dominant and slightly surprising front-running display in the Hardwicke Stakes led to a change of heart.

While Stoute acknowledges his four-year-old has plenty on his plate in conceding almost a stone to unbeaten Derby hero Golden Horn, he is anticipating a bold show.

“He actually quickened well in the Hardwicke and I don’t think people have appreciated that,” said the Newmarket handler. “He seems in good shape and while we have great respect for the Derby winner, he’s entitled to take his chance. We’re happy with his preparation and it looks a fantastic race.”

Snow Sky carries the colours of Khalid Abdullah, who last landed the King George with Dancing Brave in 1986.

The owner’s racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, said: “For the Hardwicke Stakes, we discussed the race beforehand. Pat Smullen had never ridden him before and it didn’t look like there was going to be much pace in the race and we knew he stayed well in the Yorkshire Cup.

“We said if there was no pace, don’t be afraid to go on and make it and Pat timed it to perfection. ”

Smullen is delighted to have been given the call-up once more. He said: “It’s great to get back on him and I think he’s there with a huge chance.

“Obviously, Golden Horn is going to be extremely difficult to beat, but I was impressed with my horse in the Hardwicke.

“Golden Horn looks a very good colt and is getting the weight concession from the older horses, so it’s going to be tough.”