TRADING Leather attempts to come out of his stablemate Dawn Approach’s shadow when he lines-up for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot today.
The Teofilo colt has held second billing behind his fellow Jim Bolger inmate, who has tended to hog the headlines throughout their racing careers so far. However, Trading Leather justified the regard in which Bolger holds him when winning the Irish Derby, and the Coolcullen handler is looking forward to the summer showpiece sponsored by Betfair.
“He’s in good shape and we’re looking forward to it,” said Bolger. “At the beginning of the year I was regarding him as my Derby horse and I got side-tracked a little bit with Dawn Approach going to Epsom. We ran him in the Dante at York.
“We were happy with his run and I didn’t have another mile horse so we ran him in the Irish 2000 Guineas. We were happy with his run there (third).
“Then he won the Silver Stakes over a mile and a quarter. He seemed to win that very well so we thought he’d get the mile and a half and get it well [in the Irish Derby]. I was giving him a good chance before the race and he didn’t let us down. Mentally he’s very good. He’s a bit edgy going down to the start after Kevin (Manning) gets on him but when he gets there he’s fine and he settles well in his races.
“We’d like nice pace for him and hopefully we’ll get that. After that I don’t really have any worries about him.”
Bolger’s only previous King George triumph came back in 1992 with another Irish Derby hero St Jovite. Jockey Johnny Murtagh on the other hand goes for a fourth success in this prestigious contest after wins on Alamshar, Dylan Thomas and Duke Of Marmalade when he gets the leg up on Novellist for trainer Andreas Wohler.
“He’s a typical German horse – tough, stays well, a good trainer. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a nice spare ride to get,” said Murtagh. “The King George is a huge race. I’ve won it before and I’d like to win it again. He’s won Group 1s in Germany and won one in France last time. He beat the favourite Cirrus Des Aigles last time and I’m hoping he can again. If he does he should be fighting out the finish as it’s a wide-open race now with St Nicholas Abbey out.”
Cirrus Des Aigles was making a belated seasonal debut because of injury when fifth at Saint-Cloud and will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon for the first time in nearly 16 months. “It was always organised that if Olivier (Peslier) couldn’t ride, Christophe will and he knows the horse very well and he knows Ascot, so it is not a problem,” said trainer Corine Barande-Barbe. “He won in Dubai where the ground was very fast. When it is raining a lot and the ground becomes heavy or very deep he is not disturbed at all. His turn of foot allows him to win over any distance.”
Peslier will be in opposition on the Alban de Mieulle-trained Very Nice Name, last seen finishing third behind St Nicholas Abbey in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March.
One of the main home contenders is Roger Varian’s Ektihaam, out to make amends after he slipped up on the bend a long way from home in the Hardwicke Stakes when making the running at the Royal meeting. The Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned four-year-old suffered no ill-effects and connections hope he can build on a previous course and distance win. “Ektihaam has been pleasing me at home ahead of this race. Who knows what would have happened in the Hardwicke Stakes had he not slipped, but prior to that his form is very strong,” Varian said.
With the owner’s retained jockey Paul Hanagan opting to go to York mainly for Mukhadram in the Sky Bet Stakes, Dane O’Neill comes for the handy spare ride. “I spoke to Roger about his mishap at Ascot and there were no problems afterwards,” said O’Neill. “Mentally and physically he came out of the race fine.”
Sir Michael Stoute has an enviable record in the race and persuaded the owners of three-year-old Hillstar, winner of the King Edward VII Stakes, to pay £75,000 to supplement the colt. Ed Dunlop accepts Red Cadeaux is an outsider, but stresses that his admirable globetrotter is no forlorn hope. “If the rain comes it will be interesting,” said the Newmarket trainer.
At Ascot yesterday, Roger Charlton’s Lilyfire made a winning debut in what looked a hot contest for the John Guest EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes at Ascot.
The daughter of First Defence (8-1) was one of many well-bred juveniles to show promise in the seven-furlong event, staying on to score by half a length for James Doyle, as 9-2 favourite Psychometry finished well for second.