Ten memorable winners of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Thu 27 Jul 2017

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot is shaping up into a great renewal with dual Oaks winner Enable tackling defnding champion Highland Reel, plus four other Group One winners. Will it be recalled as a classic? Here are ten mighty winners from yesteryear.

RIBOT (1956)

Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Flat-racers of the post-war era, the unbeaten Italian champion made his one and only trip to Britain for the 1956 King George.

The dual Arc winner used the Gran Premio di Milano as his prep race for the King George, which was set to be his hardest race to date.

The going was sticky, and the 2-5 favourite looked uneasy at one stage, with jockey Enrico Camici urging him to go with the leaders.

The pacemaker Todrai, did his job and led Ribot into the straight.But it was only in the last furlong that the champion showed his real worth.

Some argued that the win was unimpressive; the horse's record, though, speaks for itself: 16 runs, 16 wins.


Vincent O'Brien's triple crown winner was another easy winner of this great race.

The son of Northern Dancer had already captured the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the Irish Derby, and started at odds of 40-85 at Ascot.

Nijinsky was the only three-year-old in a field of six that included the previous year's Derby winner, Blakeney, and Coronation Cup winner Caliban.

Caliban provided the early pace, but it was soon apparent that Nijinsky was in a different league. He cruised past his rivals on the bridle and left Blakeney for dead. Lester Piggott couldn't have had an easier winner.

MILL REEF (1971)

Trained by Ian Balding, Mill Reef won six Group Ones in a row. That sequence began with the Derby, and he lined up for the King George as the 8-13 favourite, having taken the Eclipse in the interim.

Ridden by Geoff Lewis, he was nicely settled in third as they entered the straight. He pulled to the front a furlong from home and ran away to win by six lengths.

He sealed a brilliant year by routing a top-class Arc field by three lengths. He won the Prix Ganay and Coronation Cup as a four-year-old, but sadly injury curtailed his career soon afterwards and the great rematch with Brigadier Gerard never happened.

GRUNDY (1975)

To many, this WAS the race of the century. The clash of the generations pitted the Derby winner, Grundy, against Bustino, winner of the 1974 St Leger.

Two pacemakers were thrown in by Bustino's trainer, Dick Hern, and they set up the race nicely for an epic duel in the final half-mile.

Bustino was clear by three into the home straight, but Grundy was gradually eating into his lead. They fought all the way to the line, and Grundy looked beaten at one stage.

Yet, he dug deep, and just prevailed in a thrilling finish. We mustn't forget also that the brilliant dual-winner Dahlia was a distant third.

Such was the courage both horses had to show that, not only did the race-record time stand until Harbinger in 2010, but neither managed to win again.

SHERGAR (1981)

Shergar is famous for being kidnapped and for winning the Derby by 10 lengths, and it is easy to forget that the legendary colt also won the Irish Derby and the King George in a memorable summer.

He was a warm favourite to beat the older generation at Ascot. A surprisingly slow pace was set and initially, the Aga Khan-owned colt was boxed in.

But as the field straightened for home, Light Cavalry came off the rails and Walter Swinburn seized the opportunity to take the 2-5 favourite through the gap in style.

The race was settled with two furlongs to run; he drew away to win decisively by four lengths from Madam Gay.

PETOSKI (1985)

The 1985 renewal was billed as the clash of the sexes between Henry Cecil's Oaks victor, Oh So Sharp, and Vincent O'Brien's Irish Derby winner, Law Society.

However, it was Willie Carson on Petoski who caused the upset. In victory, he also brought an end to Oh So Sharp's unbeaten run, which also included the 1000 Guineas.

Steve Cauthen blamed the very fast ground at Ascot and interference by Infantry two furlongs out for the great filly's defeat.

But Carson rode a patient race on Petoski, switching the colt to the outside close to the finish to beat Cauthen's mount by a neck.

Petoski remains the last unplaced Derby runner to win the King George. __ DANCING BRAVE (1986)__

If the International Classifications, which started in 1977, are anything to go by, then Dancing Brave is without doubt the best King George winner of the last four decades.

Rated 141 at the time (somewhat controversially amended to 138 in 2013 but still the highest-rated King George winner), he possessed great speed, and a lightning turn of foot that left his rivals for dead. He started the King George as the 6-4 second favourite, behind the 11-10 shot Shahrastani, who had famously beaten him in the Derby.

With Pat Eddery on board, this time 'the Brave' took revenge, with his Epsom conqueror disappointing in fourth place. Dancing Brave went on to achieve further glory with a dazzling win in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the autumn.

NASHWAN (1989)

Nashwan was a truly exceptional three-year-old. Trained by Major Dick Hern, he remains the only horse to have won the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse and King George in one season.

It was a slow gallop for the seven-runner field in the King George, which soon developed into a tactical affair as Willie Carson sat and waited on Nashwan.

It wasn't until the last two furlongs that the race truly developed, with Nashwan the first to commit, and he was soon joined by the Derby third, Cacoethes.

They were locked together inside the final furlong and in a pulsating finish Nashwan showed he had the courage to match his undoubted class as he got home in front.

MONTJEU (2000)

Michael Tabor's Montjeu was undoubtedly the easiest winner of the King George for many a year.

The 1999 Arc de Triomphe winner only had six rivals to beat, as the Classic generation stayed away.

In truth, it was a sub-standard renewal - but it wasn't meant to be a walkover. However, it felt like one. Sent off at 1-3 - the shortest-priced favourite since Nashwan - he had 11lb plus in hand on official figures.

Michael Kinane sat patiently on the colt, and when asked to quicken two furlongs out, the horse cruised home stylishly. Kinane didn't need to do much; the horse guided him home that day.


Harbinger was an impressive winner of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot but went to another level in the King George, where he produced a stunning performance to win by 11 lengths in a time bettering the one set by Grundy.

Confront performed his duties as pacemaker for his stablemates Workforce and Harbinger and led until the home turn, at which point Epsom Derby hero Workforce and Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco tried to assert their authority.

But they were merely sitting ducks for Olivier Peslier and Harbinger as they effortlessly took up the running inside the final two furlongs and rocketed clear.

The handicapper raised him to from 123 to 135, making him the best in the world at the time but his career was cruelly cut short the following month when he shattered a cannon-bone in a routine spin on the gallops in Newmarket.

In the wake of his retirement, Sir Michael Stoute was asked how much further Harbinger could have gone. "Who knows?," he wondered. "If he had kept at that plateau, we'd have a world champion."

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