King George: 'King of Ascot' Sir Michael Stoute chases historic sixth win

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Crystal Ocean
Sir Michael Stoute's Crystal Ocean won at Ascot in June and is one of the favourites for the King George
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
Venue: Ascot Date: Saturday 28 July Time: 15:40 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and online

No trainer is more associated with success in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot than Sir Michael Stoute.

Since the great Shergar won him a first King George trophy in 1981, when adding Flat racing's high summer showpiece to his spectacular victory in that year's Derby at Epsom, a record-equalling four more have followed.

But, significantly, that quartet - Opera House (1994), Golan (2002), Conduit (2009) and Harbinger (2010) - have all been older than the three-year-old, testament to the way their trainer's never-in-a-hurry methods see his horses thrive with age.

This time Stoute, 72, and his team based at the historic Freemason Lodge stables in Newmarket, have two well-nurtured older horses to send on the 90-mile journey to Ascot attempting to bring home the famous prize - won by some of the sport's greats - for a historic sixth time.

Crystal Ocean, aged four, and Poet's Word, a five-year-old, are the two favourites, having both reached new peaks with success at June's Royal Ascot, respectively in the Hardwicke Stakes and in the Prince of Wales' Stakes when the colours of the talented Cracksman, no less, were lowered.

Sir Michael Stoute (centre) at Royal Ascot
Stoute set a new record for Royal Ascot winners last month

Their wins, part of a memorable four-timer for Stoute at the Royal meeting, made the veteran trainer the most successful of his profession at the fixture over the years - passing the total of 75 races won by the late Sir Henry Cecil, with whom he had stood level for a couple of years.

Perhaps equally significantly, it silenced those sceptics who had begun to wonder if a quieter spell was signalling that a glittering career which started in 1972 and which has included wins in 15 British Classics and the champion's title 10 times, had been entering its final furlong. No one is whispering that any more.

Despite having such a strong hand in the £1.25m Qipco-sponsored mile-and-a-half-long feature, Stoute is characteristically not in danger of getting carried away with their chances.

"Excited is not quite the right word," he said. "You just want to get them there is one piece. But the horses seem to be in good shape, in good form and the preparations have gone well.

"Crystal Ocean is impervious as far as the ground is concerned and won very well over course and distance. Poet's Word is versatile as regards distance and has been recording high levels of form.

"They are the first two in the betting - they might not finish first and second - but they're entitled to be [the first two]."

Two of the season's most in-form jockeys are taking the rides with Derby winner William Buick on Crystal Ocean while, fresh from a widely-applauded success on Sea Of Class in the Irish Oaks, James Doyle will again be on Poet's Word.

Reflecting on his King George record, Stoute said: "Shergar gave us an anxious moment when he was short of room on the turn but still won well. Opera House was a very solid performer; Golan's win was his first appearance of the year, so that was a good feat for which he didn't probably get the credit he deserved. Conduit was a model of consistency. Harbinger was highly progressive and a serious machine that day.

"It's a valuable prize at an important time of the year, and obviously very good to win."

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