Cape Blanco on mission to prove Dante form was no fluke
Cape Blanco is on a mission as Aidan O'Brien's colt aims to show that his Dante Stakes win over Workforce was no fluke when the two Derby winners renew rivalry in a mouth-watering King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
Excuses were made for Workforce after he was beaten by O'Brien's charge in the big Derby trial at York in May, with the bit going through his mouth. But it was not plain sailing for Cape Blanco, either, as he was sore after the race.
Workforce, trained by Michael Stoute, made amends in spectacular style in the Epsom Derby, while Cape Blanco flopped in the Prix du Jockey Club, only to land the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on his latest outing.
O'Brien is looking forward to the rematch in the midsummer showpiece, sponsored by Betfair.
"We always thought very highly of him and the only blip on his copybook was France. We just put that down to an off-day," the Ballydoyle handler said. "The Curragh was the first time he'd run over a mile and a half and he showed all the courage and class we thought he had in the Irish Derby.
"He did finish sore after the Dante. He cut the back of his heel. We were very happy with him going to York. It was his first run of the season and most of our horses have been coming on for their first run.
"A few days after York he was perfect. He came out of France very well and we were happy going to the Curragh with him. It's going to be exciting."
With stable jockey Johnny Murtagh suspended, Colm O'Donoghue comes in for the plum ride. "It's great to get a ride like Cape Blanco in the King George and I'm really looking forward to it," O'Donoghue said. "Cape Blanco is very uncomplicated. I can ride him anywhere I want. He showed how good he was in the Irish Derby. It was a very good performance."
Workforce, owned by Khalid Abdullah, bids to become the first Derby winner to go on and beat his elders in this event since O'Brien's Galileo in 2001. The owner's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: "It's going to be a really exciting day. He's had a straightforward preparation, he has worked nicely and most importantly without any interruptions."
Abdullah also runs outsider Confront as a pacemaker for his Classic hero. The two Derby winners represent the Classic generation with the older brigade led by Workforce's stablemate, Harbinger. The Dansili colt has won all his three starts and is in Group One company for the first time.
Harry Herbert, racing manager for the owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, admits he is just thrilled to be involved in such an illustrious event.
"I totally understand why Ryan (Moore, jockey) chose to ride him instead of Harbinger. It was always going to be very difficult to get off a Derby winner, especially one that won so impressively in a course-record time.
"But I'd like to think Ryan will be keeping a close eye on Harbinger and it's going to be an amazing day."
Mick Channon's luckless seven-year-old Youmzain has his third crack at the race having finished second to Dylan Thomas in 2007 and grabbed third behind Duke Of Marmalade a year later.
"I don't know how he's going to run -- he's Youmzain isn't he," quipped Channon. "We're pleased with the way his preparation has gone. He ran a blinder in France last time. He's a year older and probably a year wiser, but I'd be very hopeful."
John Gosden's Dar Re Mi was ruled out of the race after suffering a stone bruise, which means French filly Daryakana completes a six-runner field.