Anthony Van Dyck faces major King George task against Enable

O’Brien star bidding to become 13th Irish -trained winner of Ascot feature

 Seamie Heffernan riding Anthony Van Dyck to victory in  The Investec Derby  at Epsom in June. Photograph:  Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Seamie Heffernan riding Anthony Van Dyck to victory in The Investec Derby at Epsom in June. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

Aidan O’Brien’s Epsom Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck will try to become a 13th Irish-trained winner of Britain’s midsummer feature, the King George VI Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes, on Saturday.

Not only that but he has the chance to be the first ‘Blue Riband’ hero to double up in Ascot’s all-aged highlight in the same season since his sire Galileo all of 18 years ago.

Since then O’Brien has followed the general trend of Derby winners skipping the King George although the 2019 renewal harks back to the race’s vintage days. So much so that Anthony Van Dyck has to play second fiddle, at best, in terms of billing behind the odds-on Enable who has a singular piece of history in her own sights.

Two horses Dahlia (1973-74) and Swain (1997-98) have won back to back King George’s. Enable bids to regain the King George crown having won it in 2017 and missed out last year because of injury.

Her winning return to action this term in the Eclipse earlier this month fuelled hopes she can achieve the ultimate goal of an unprecedented Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October but this promises to be another milestone moment in an already storied career.

Her jockey Frankie Dettori has a ninth Group One in less than eight weeks in his sights and in terms of most popular expectation Enable’s ten opponents are in potential spoilsport roles.

They include other older Group One stars in Crystal Ocean, Defoe and Waldgeist as well as the Japanese contender Chevel Grand.

Tactically though it will be fascinating how O’Brien’s four-pronged attack on the race unfolds.

On form Hunting Horn and Norway have little chance of winning and while Magic Wand has Group One placed form there’s little doubt that Anthony Van Dyck is the Ballydoyle No. 1.

He does however have plenty to prove on the back of failing to overhaul his pace-setting stable companion Sovereign in the Irish Derby a month ago.

The Epsom hero looked to get warm beforehand yet apparently raced cold, plugging on to be second but never looking happy.

First-time cheek-pieces are applied on Saturday as the Irish hope bids to emulate his sire who was the 13th colt to do the Derby-King George double in the same year.

Older horses 

O’Brien’s other three King George winners since Galileo have been older horses who have mostly dominated in recent years. However Enable’s trainer John Gosden has pointed to the three year old weight allowance as to why Enable faces no ‘penalty kick’.

“Enable won as a three year old getting weight, just as Taghrooda (2014) did. It’s a little different when you’re older and suddenly you have a Derby winner coming at you, who’s getting the weight,” Gosden said.

“Enable is up for it but I just don’t think it’s the formality that’s indicated by the betting,” added the in-form trainer.

Other Irish interest at Saturday’s Ascot card will focus on Jessica Harrington’s two year old Punita Arora lining up in the Group Three Princess Margaret Stakes. The Navan maiden winner will be ridden by Shane Foley.

Harrington has a couple of runners at Ireland’s sole weekend fixture at Gowran ahead of next week’s Galway festival.

Minne Haha could be the best of them although of particular interest to a lot of punters could be Travelwise’s quick reappearance after a four-length rout at Naas on Wednesday.

Pat Flynn’s runner drops back a furlong for the apprentice handicap but has an inside draw and just a 6lb penalty.

The horse he beat during the week, Popsicle, goes for  a later handicap and looks well handicapped on the back of Wednesday’s return to form.

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