Magician spearheads Irish raid on Ascot showpiece
Magician will join Trading Leather, last year's gallant runner-up, in spearheading the Irish assault on a mouth-watering edition of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot tomorrow.
Aidan O'Brien has been responsible for three of the five cross-channel winners of the prestigious Group One since the turn of the millennium, and the Ballydoyle genius has a live chance of adding to his haul with his Breeders' Cup Turf hero.
Magician has been popular in the ante-post betting for the middle-distance summer highlight, being trimmed to as low as 9/2 from a high of 6/1 on the back of his honourable defeat to The Fugue in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at the royal meeting.
Joseph O'Brien's mount now steps back up to 12 furlongs in a race in which his sire Galileo plundered his trainer's first win 13 years ago.
Trading Leather, last year's Irish Derby winner, also steps back up from 10 furlongs having been second to the reopposing Mukhadram in the Eclipse Stakes, 12 months after he was eventually outclassed by Novellist's course record-smashing turn.
Kevin Manning will again sport the Godolphin blue aboard him as he bids to add to St Jovite's 1992 rout for Jim Bolger, who also saddles the regular pace-maker Leitir Mor under Ronan Whelan.
"You could make a case for basically every horse in the race," Manning admitted of the £1,000,000 event, before adding of his mount, which is a top-priced 14/1: "He's going there in good shape and I'm looking forward to riding him. I think he'll put up a big show."
Top of the market is the Ryan Moore-ridden Telescope (9/4), which will attempt to give Michael Stoute a record sixth King George win after his stunning Hardwicke victory last month.
Of course, much of the race's intrigue surrounds the presence of John Gosden's three Classic generation representatives, with the stunning Oaks winner Taghrooda (Paul Hanagan) second favourite at 11/4.
Romsdal – third to Australia in the Derby after being supplemented at a cost of £75,000 – is the outsider of the three at 33/1.
However, Gosden says that Eagle Top might yet be withdrawn if he feels the ground – officially good to firm, good in places after being watered this week – is too quick for his impressive King Edward VI winner, despite him being supplemented for the same fee.
"Unfortunately our supplementary system is five days before the race," Gosden said yesterday. "In France, it's a much better system – it's at 48 hours.
"I'll be at Ascot (today) and walk the track. Then we will be making our decision. He's a very nice horse, but I didn't really want to run him twice on too fast a ground. He did it well at Royal Ascot, but he's bred more for good, good to soft ground."
Meanwhile, Worcestershire-based handler Tony Carroll has confirmed that he is the fifth trainer to have a winner test positive for morphine in a saga that the Queen became embroiled in after it emerged that her brilliant Michael Stoute-trained stayer Estimate was one of the horses concerned. The controversy has been linked to a contaminated batch of feed products.
"We've had quite a few winners lately and they've all been clear, so it must have just been one bag which went through the system in a week," said Carroll after revealing that last month's Brighton winner Ocean Legend tested positive for the pain-killing substance, which is banned on race-days.