Love’s King George ambitions could depend on Ascot weather

Potential deluge could hamper Aidan O’Brien’s star filly in attempt to land another Classic

Love ridden by Ryan Moore wins the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on the second day of the Royal Ascot meeting. Photograph:  Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Love ridden by Ryan Moore wins the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on the second day of the Royal Ascot meeting. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

 

The scene is set for a classic King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes clash at Ascot provided the weather doesn’t turn spoilsport.

It’s a bitter irony at the height of summer – and in a heatwave – that forecast thunderstorms through Saturday hold the potential to alter the complexion of this King George.

A deluge will guarantee the filly Wonderful Tonight takes her chance. It won’t be bad news either for the Derby hero Adayar, who won at Epsom on a soft surface.

However, it is precisely not what Aidan O’Brien wants for his star older filly Love, who relishes quick ground.

Maybe some happy medium will emerge but it’s hard not to recall how in 2015 the overwhelming favourite Golden Horn was taken out of the King George just three hours before the race due to heavy rain.

Perhaps unsurprisingly O’Brien has also left his recent Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Broome among the six declarations, although definitely in a supporting role.

“She [Love] would be the main one. But if it was going to be soft Broome handles it whereas Love wouldn’t be mad about it,” he said.

It hardly makes for a straightforward tee-up of a race that recently seemed simply the preserve of Enable.

Her three victories are a race record and helped put Frankie Dettori on the verge of eclipsing Lester Piggott with an eighth King George success should he win on the Irish Derby runner-up Lone Eagle.

However, in many ways this King George is a throwback to its glory years.

Once it was almost de rigueur for the Derby winner to tackle his elders in the King George. Never was it more memorable than when Grundy edged Bustino in 1975’s ‘Race of the Century’. Such presumption is a thing of the past though.

A single three-year-old colt has won in the last 17 years and that was Nathaniel a decade ago. It is two decades since the last Derby winner followed up in the King George. So Adayar’s presence alone may be the most important element to Saturday’s race.

That he is there helps throw up a slew of plotlines.

There is the clash of the generations that was the original point of the King George. There is a gender clash between a top older filly like Love and a star colt such as Adayar. And then there is a prospect of a Coolmore/Godolphin duel with extra resonance from all of 20 years ago.

That’s when the three-year-old Galileo toughed it out over Fantastic Light in one of the most memorable ‘superpower’ clashes of the modern era.

Galileo’s daughter Love now takes on Adayar, a son of Galileo’s greatest product, Frankel.

In a perfect scenario the pair will produce a finish to rival that of 2001. Such scenarios rarely unfold, even without the weather gods making their presence felt. But should the elements play ball it makes for a contest to relish.

The weight for age scale could prove crucial.

Rather than getting weight, Love has to give Adayar 8lbs. The three-year-old is entitled to 11lbs from the older colt Mishriff, who has been largely forgotten in the build-up but shapes as a potential joker in the pack. Such allowances are a major plus for the Godolphin star.

“The allowance that the three-year-olds get at this time of the year is very attractive and it’s definitely a factor,” acknowledged Adayar’s jockey William Buick.

Nevertheless, the Ballydoyle team are likely to fancy their chances with a filly that routed inferior Classic opposition in the Oaks and Guineas last year and proved her grit when returning to action at Royal Ascot a month ago.

Both O’Brien and Ryan Moore were eager to underline how much Love was likely to improve for her first run in 10 months.

She is back at a mile and a half now and the form of that Prince Of Wales’s victory could get a boost 20 minutes before from her stable companion Armory.

He was a length and a half behind her on that occasion and now faces his own generational clash in a Group Two at York.

Séamus Heffernan takes the reins on Armory who takes on the sole three-year-old in the five-runner race, the Royal Ascot winner, Mohaafeth.

There is a 12lb difference between those market principals and it the significance of such an age allowance could prove a precursor of what unfolds in Ascot.

Irish hopes though will mainly rest on Love assuming Enable’s King George mantle.

An Arc duel between the pair never happened last year. But presumption that it would have been a meeting of equals suggests Adayar & Co face a major task on Saturday, whatever the weather.

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