Danedream one of the greats after victory in vintage King George
Danedream wins the King George at Royal Ascot (Action Images)
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German mare Danedream will go down as one of the great racehorses of all time, after she beat a top-class field in the 2400m Group One King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday at Ascot.
Four-year-old Danedream prevailed in a photo to beat last year’s victor Nathaniel by a nose, with Irish galloper St Nicholas Abbey in third position.
The King George field was widely regarded as one of the strongest ever. It included previous winners of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Danedream), French Derby (Reliable Man), Coronation Stakes (St Nicholas Abbey), Breeders’ Cup Turf (St Nicholas Abbey), Eclipse Stakes (Nathaniel), Japanese Derby (Deep Brillante), Hong Kong Vase (Dunaden) and Melbourne Cup (Dunaden).
The King George may well be England’s version of the Cox Plate, but Saturday’s renewal at Ascot was so strong that the winner would be assured of their place in history.
Danedream achieved global fame when she destroyed the Arc de Triopmphe field by five lengths in track-record time at Longchamp in Paris last year. Amongst the defeated on that occasion were the internationally-renowned Snow Fairy, So You Think, and St Nicholas Abbey.
But as good as Danedream was at Longchamp, her performance against a vintage field at the weekend will be the one that stamps her career.
Danedream had to call on everything she had to win the King George. When Nathaniel shot to the front, it was going to take an incredible effort to deny him back-to-back successes in the Ascot feature.
But the mare was up to the task. German rider Andrasch Starke rode the most brilliant, stalking race and Danedream timed her run to perfection. She was only in front for one bound but, crucially, it was the very last of the race.
Danedream showed great courage and strength to run down her much more fancied male opponent. Trainer Peter Schiergen will now prepare Danedream for her Arc defence.
Danedream entered the King George in less than inspiring form. She won an average Group Two by a small margin in her home country at Baden Baden, before floundering in last place on a heavy track at Saint Cloud in France.
The victor in that Group One was Meandrè, a horse Danedream had disposed of by seven lengths in last October’s Arc.
Danedream went to the post in the King George as a despised outsider at odds of 20/1. Even though her feats were the equal of any horse in the field – I rate her as the sixth best horse in the world – she was the forgotten horse in a classic line-up.
But Danedream wasn’t in unchartered waters. She was a roughie when she won the Arc de Triomphe at odds of 25/1. Just like in any sport, racing has big-time performers who save their best for the big moments. Danedream is one of them.
Danedream’s performances in the great races remind me of the feats of Fields Of Omagh in Australia. Fields Of Omagh caused two upsets when he won the Cox Plate at 16/1 on two occasions, four seasons apart.
Like Schiergen with Danedream, FOO was trained for the big races and he retired with a record of six starts for two wins, two seconds and one third in Melbourne’s spring majors.
Fields Of Omagh won only six races yet tallied more than $A6m in prize money.
Danedream is the European version of FOO. A four-time Group One winner, Danedream produces her best on the grandest of stages.
For this, a lot of the credit must lie with Schiergen, who has done a marvellous job to have Danedream peak for Europe’s two blue riband races.
Of the beaten brigade in the King George, third-placegetter St Nicholas Abbey turned in the best run. Joseph O’Brien, who took the ride for his father’s Ballydoyle stable, positioned his mount at the back of the pack as instructed, but with a world-class field to contend with, St Nicholas Abbey was unable to bridge the gap in the home straight.
Favourite Sea Moon’s fifth-place finish proves he is just a shade below the top echelon, while Australian jockey Craig Williams described the on-pace tactics he used on defending Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden as the “wrong way to ride him”.
Interestingly, Dunaden’s flat last furlong – that saw him tire into sixth – may be the catalyst for his return to Melbourne. Prior to the King George, the connections of Dunaden declared that if the horse failed to finish in the top three, a trip to Australia would be favoured over a tilt at the Arc de Triomphe.
But because Dunaden’s disappointing performance was blamed on the ride of Williams, the Arc may still be favoured route. If Dunaden travelled to Australia he may be forced to carry top weight in the Melbourne Cup, but his presence would add extra interest to the upcoming Carnival.
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