O'Brien to stick with Highland Reel for King George

Highland Reel

O’Brien will stick by Highland Reel despite the absence of Postponed

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com)  

 By Alex Wiltshire 7:00PM 20 JUL 2016 

AIDAN O’BRIEN is likely to keep his faith in Highland Reel to deliver victory in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and may not run either Sir Isaac Newton or Shogun in Saturday’s feature event at Ascot.

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The Qipco-sponsored race, which is now headed in the market by The Queen’s Dartmouth at a best priced 2-1, was dealt a huge blow when Roger Varian announced his odds-on favourite Postponed would not be running after providing an unsatisfactory scope on Wednesday morning.

Highland Reel was last seen finishing just a head behind Dartmouth in the Hardwicke Stakes and has been made an 11-4 chance with William Hill. After making the decision not to supplement Qatar Nassau Stakes-bound Minding, O’Brien is hoping to see the dual top-flight winner overturn that royal meeting defeat.

“It has been the plan to run him in the race since he ran second in the Hardwicke,” said O’Brien. “I’m not sure whether Sir Isaac Newton or Shogun will join him. If we do run two then Sir Isaac Newton is probably the more likely but we’ll decide in the morning.”

It means the field could be seriously depleted in numbers. Postponed was due to be joined by pacemaker Ajman Bridge, while John Gosden has suggested Western Hymn may be redirected to the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes on the same day.

Former champion Gosden will still be represented by Investec Derby fourth Wings Of Desire.

Gosden said: “We were going to take him to France but felt duty bound to put some depth into what is always a fascinating race. He worked nicely on the Al Bahathri this morning and we have run some nice three-year-olds in it before, most recently Taghrooda.

“Despite what his pedigree says, Wings Of Desire doesn’t like soft ground. He should be fine on a sounder surface but good ground would be ideal for him.

“We also have Western Hymn entered but we’ll make a decision whether he goes there or for a Group 2 at York in the morning.”

In the absence of Postponed Gosden expressed his disappointment a horse of his quality will not feature.

“I’m genuinely very sorry Postponed is missing the race as these big races need big horses such as him,” he added.

“Perhaps I better get on the phone to Dalham Hall Stud and get Golden Horn back. He couldn’t run in it last year but would have had his ground this year, that’s for sure!”

The ground on Wednesday remained good to firm, good in places, following a day when Ascot was once again covered in hot sunshine.

Clerk of the course Chris Stickels said: “We put 10mm of water on the straight and 5mm on the round last night. We may put a bit more water on tonight to maintain our position but not as much.”

 
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