Smullen can soar on Snow Sky
Irish champion ready to pounce on any chink in Golden armour
Golden Horn faces his stiffest challenge to date in this afternoon's King George VI & QE II Stakes at Ascot.
Following a gritty Eclipse triumph, the brilliant Derby winner had last night eased to as big as evens to complete a rare Group One treble, with his participation even in doubt due to the deteriorating ground. Gosden has previously stressed that he has no fear of the horse getting beaten, but the prospect of a gruelling encounter might dissuade him.
His Cape Cross colt showcased his versatility at Sandown and, should he give him the go-ahead, there might be another change of tactics now, as 12 furlongs on deep ground might force Frankie Dettori's hand. On ratings, Golden Horn should have little to fear from today's rivals, though there is more depth to this race than there was to the Eclipse.
The Sandown runner-up The Grey Gatsby has a mark of 123, which is a pound inferior to that of Snow Sky, while the remainder are rated between 112 and 119. Golden Horn, of course, is ranked at 130 and receives weight.
Time will tell if such a lofty assessment is justified, but there is no doubt that he is a serious animal. In short, it would be great to see Golden Horn validate his place among the pantheon of Flat giants.
That all said, with the ground as it is, there will be a renewed emphasis on stamina. It might prove no hindrance to him and odds of 1/1 might yet look enormous. Still, in such an otherwise open affair, there may be value elsewhere. The talking horse has been Clever Cookie. He is a bona fide mud-lark, but he is also a seven-year-old stayer that has never won above Group Three company; he shouldn't be remotely good enough.
Romsdal is also expected to go in the ground. Amazingly, he has yet to win on turf and will likely find one or two too good. Eagle Top could figure, but the one that warrants a poke at up to 8/1 is Snow Sky. Trained by the King George wizard Michael Stoute, the son of Nayef won a maiden on heavy ground by 11 lengths, which is at least a precedent. A consistent sort that was third in the 2014 St Leger, he has oodles of stamina and is in the form of his life.
In the Hardwicke Stakes at the royal meeting, Pat Smullen was brilliant from the front on him, stealing a march in the straight to leave his duelling rivals Eagle Top and Postponed in his wake. Having conquered Brown Panther and Romsdal in the Yorkshire Cup, he boasts a 100pc record this term. In short, Snow Sky is still improving, so, if there is any chink in Golden Horn's armour, the irrepressible Smullen might just find it today.
A French raider that appeals is Jean-Claude Rouget's Prince Gibraltar, a former Group One winner that was second to the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud fourth Manatee at Chantilly last time.
Today, Prince Gibraltar receives weight from Custom Cut in a York Group Two and is fancied to collect.