Sport Horse Racing

Friday 20 April 2018

Wings Of Desire can foil Highland Reel

Derby fourth can exploit Ascot weight concession

Wings Of Desire and Frankie Dettori (left) beating Deauville and Ryan Moore in the Dante Stakes - the pair can foil Moore again today at Ascot Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Wings Of Desire and Frankie Dettori (left) beating Deauville and Ryan Moore in the Dante Stakes - the pair can foil Moore again today at Ascot Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

As has become the norm, the field for the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes leaves a little to be desired.

The 11th hour withdrawal of the 2015 hero Postponed was another regrettable blow for the 2016 edition of a Group One that for so long was the exalted highlight of the summer Flat season.

As it is, seven horses will seek to capitalise, with three of them having secured four triumphs at this level. Highland Reel, Aidan O'Brien's apparent first string, is responsible for 50pc of that haul.

This will be the first time that the market leader Dartmouth has even run in a Group One. A late-maturer, Michael Stoute's Dubawi four-year-old is unbeaten in three this term, latterly fending off Highland Reel in game fashion in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Olivier Peslier's mount is likeable and it would be no surprise at this stage to see him step up.

Both of Highland Reel's Group Ones were achieved in the international domain. He was an emphatic winner of the 2015 Secretariat Stakes over 10 furlongs before beating Flintshire and Dariyan in the Hong Kong Vase over this mile-and-a-half trip.

His three outings since then have been mixed, but holding him up ultimately back-fired in the Hardwicke.

Highland Reel was ridden aggressively in both the Secretariat and the Vase, but he got wound up and was keen at Ascot. Still, he nearly won, and his head defeat to Dartmouth might have been turned around in another couple of strides.

Of the two today, Highland Reel appeals as the most likely winner, as the suspicion is that Ryan Moore will seek to deploy more suitable tactics.

That all said, it might ultimately pay to take a chance on Wings Of Desire, the sole three-year-old in the race.

So far, the Classic generation looks above average, with both the Eclipse and Falmouth having gone the way of 2013 progeny.

Wings Of Desire has the scope to enhance that record. Successful in a Wolverhampton maiden on his second start, the John Gosden-trained son of Pivotal went on to deny Deauville in the Dante.

That was a fine turn that has since been franked by the runner-up plundering a famous Belmont Derby success a fortnight ago.

At Epsom, Wings Of Desire ran well to be fourth to Harzand, but he didn't seem at all comfortable on the finishing camber when the pressure came on.

Given that conditions at York were fast, the slow ground at Epsom might not have been ideal for him either, yet he still emerged with credit in what was a decent Derby.

Wings of Desire has the scope to develop and, with conditions in his favour, he can exploit a 12lb concession to make the breakthrough for Frankie Dettori.

Only two three-year-olds have won the King George in the last 10 years and Gosden has trained both - Nathaniel and Taghrooda. Odds of 4/1 about Wings Of Desire emulating them are appealing.

At York, Pat Smullen partners Time Test in what should be a straightforward assignment for the Eclipse third in a 10-furlong Group Two.

Ominously, Time Test's form outside of Group Ones is 2121111, but Gosden's Mahsoob is worth a saver at 7/1.

Paul Hanagan's mount flopped over a mile in the Lockinge, but has had a break since.

Last year's Wolferton winner is better than that and this is his optimum trip.

Watching Brief...

Dermot Weld is a 1/5 shot with Paddy Power to claim a 30th successive trainers' title at Ballybrit next week.

His dominance has been challenged there in recent years, and in 2015 he was only third on the final listing in terms of winners trained.

Willie Mullins, who emerged best in that regard last year with eight wins, is a 3/1 shot in the outright market, with Tony Martin, whose 2015 tally of six was also one more than Weld's, trading at 14/1.

Mullins may or may not have as strong a team this time and Martin is hardly firing on all cylinders at the moment.

Joseph O'Brien can be backed straight at 50/1 to top the pile but, maybe more appealingly, he is 10/1 in the betting without Weld market.

The young Kilkenny-based handler has really hit the ground running. His horses continue in fine form, and, perhaps crucially, he can draw on a deep dual-purpose string.

Sure, he might need one or two others to misfire, but he has the team to plunder a number of winners.

Irish Independent

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