By David Jennings 7:00PM 22 JUL 2016
HIGHLAND REEL is just edging his pre-race battle for favouritism with Hardwicke conqueror Dartmouth for Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, with Aidan O’Brien’s runner now the 11-4 favourite.
He had shared the honour with the Queen’s Royal Ascot winner, who is now a best-priced 3-1, and O’Brien, who has won the race three times, revealed the Hardwicke was used as a stepping stone for the yard’s latest globetrotter.
It was Highland Reel’s first outing since disappointing in the QEII Cup at Sha Tin in April and Aidan O’Brien admitted that he had one eye on today’s showpiece heading into the Group 2 contest in June.
O’Brien said: “He’s in good form and we’ve been happy with him since he ran in the Hardwicke at Ascot. He ran very well there and we were very happy with him.
“The plan going to the Hardwicke was with an eye on going back for the King George so this has been part of the plan and I am happy with him.”
Big step up for Newton
O’Brien is double-handed this time with the improving Sir Issac Newton chasing a hat-trick after following up his Wolferton Handicap win at Royal Ascot with a Group 3 success at the Curragh.
O’Brien has been encouraged with his progress over the summer and is not fazed by the step up in grade and in trip for his son of Galileo, who is a best priced 16-1 to take the prize.
“We’ve been very happy with how Sir Issac Newton is coming along this season. He really started coming to himself before Ascot. We were delighted with him there and delighted with him at the Curragh,” O’Brien said.
“It’s another big step up and it is a step up in trip as well. When he ran in the Jersey and was unlucky we thought he’d be a miler, even though he’s bred to get further, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on. He’s starting to relax now.”
Thundery showers a possibility
Both the straight and round courses at Ascot were watered throughout the week and will again be watered on Friday evening to the extent of 3mm if no rain arrives by 10pm, however thundery showers are a possibility.
The going is currently good to firm on the straight course and good to firm, good in places on the round course.