September 23, 2023

Westover takes on Mishriff in BC WAYI King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Mishriff (left) collars Chrono Genesis in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Photo by Neville Hopwood/Dubai Racing Club)

Saturday’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot pits sophomore stars Westover and Emily Upjohn against such older celebrities as Mishriff and Torquator Tasso. The 1 1/2-mile showpiece offers a further angle of interest as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) – Race 4 (10:35 a.m. ET)

Westover represents the Derby (G1) form, having finished a hampered but hard-charging third to the now-sidelined Desert Crown. The Ralph Beckett pupil enjoyed a far more straightforward journey in the Irish Derby (G1) at the Curragh, where he romped by seven lengths with new rider Colin Keane. Westover keeps Keane aboard for this first test versus elders. As a top-class and still-progressing son of Frankel, and with an 11-pound weight break, the Juddmonte homebred is the hot favorite.

Three-year-old filly Emily Upjohn receives 14 pounds from the older males, but it could be significant that the King George wasn’t the original plan. The beaten Oaks (G1) favorite, Emily Upjohn had an even harder-luck story than Westover at Epsom. The John and Thady Gosden trainee stumbled out of the gate, putting herself in a difficult position, and rallied nearer the stands’ side when coming up agonizingly short of catching Tuesday in a photo. Also like Westover, Emily Upjohn was hoping to rebound at the Curragh, only to have her Irish Oaks (G1) bid scuttled by travel woes last Saturday. Now the Sea the Stars filly is rerouted to a more challenging spot here. Frankie Dettori retains the mount.

The Gosdens’ global money-spinner Mishriff was runner-up in this race last summer to Adayar, then the reigning Epsom Derby hero. Mishriff faces a sense of déjà vu in having to concede lumps of weight again to the current classic generation, at a distance that might stretch him. Although the Prince Faisal homebred captured the 2021 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) in course-record time at about 1 1/2 miles, his other marquee wins have come over shorter, including the 2020 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1) as well as last season’s Saudi Cup and Juddmonte International (G1). Mishriff renewed that impression in his comeback in the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse (G1), just missing to 2022 Prix du Jockey Club victor Vadeni after a troubled trip. Yet his abundant class makes him a threat with new pilot James Doyle.

Torquator Tasso, last fall’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) shocker, will try to become the third German shipper to land this prize in recent years after Danedream (2012) and Novellist (2013). The quick ground could be the key question for the son of Adlerflug, whose top efforts have come in conditions ranging from good-to-soft to heavy. Still, he showed he can act on good going when second to the classy Alpinista in the 2021 Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) after not having the best luck. Coming off a resounding title defense in the Grosser Hansa-Preis (G2), Torquator Tasso brings regular rider Rene Piechulek in tow.

Aidan O’Brien relies on Broome, most recently successful in the course-and-distance Hardwicke (G2) during the Royal meeting. A high-level campaigner since his juvenile days in 2018, Broome scored his signature win in last year’s Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1). He’s more often been a near-misser in Group 1s, as in his runner-up performance in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf. But the son of Australia has tactical speed, and a different dynamic here might help him improve on his fourth in last year’s running. Then employed to assist stablemate Love, the eventual third, Broome will have every chance to stand on his own merit with Ryan Moore.

Pyledriver, dethroned as the defending champion in the June 3 Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom, is another with more Group 1 placings on his resume. Third in the 2020 St Leger (G1), second in last December’s Hong Kong Vase (G1), and a checkered fourth in the Mar. 26 Dubai Sheema Classic, the son of Harbour Watch rates as the outsider of the King George sextet.