Poet’s Word gave Sir Michael Stoute a record-breaking sixth success in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes when he just denied his stablemate Crystal Ocean in an epic finish to the midsummer feature at Ascot.
Winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 10 furlongs at Royal Ascot, Poet’s Word (7-4) edged in front in the last 100 yards under James Doyle, after 6-4 favourite Crystal Ocean had set sail for home in the straight.
Rostropovich and Salouen had set a strong pace from the outset, but Desert Encounter lost several lengths at the start.
Doyle had Poet’s Word at the back of the field and had plenty to do as Crystal Ocean, ridden by William Buick, was seemingly in a better position heading to the business end of the race.
Hardwicke Stakes hero Crystal Ocean went on, but Poet’s Word gave chase and nailed him close to the line to win by a neck. Coronet was third, another nine lengths away from the Stoute pair.
Poet’s Word joins Shergar (1981), Opera House (1993), Golan (2002), Conduit (2009) and Harbinger (2010) as a Stoute-trained winner of the King George.
It has been a fine couple of months for Stoute, with the triumph of Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’s meaning he also set a new best for career winners at the Royal meeting, overtaking the late Sir Henry Cecil.
He said: “Two wonderful brave athletes. The first reaction is you feel sorry for the one that got beaten. It’s taken a long time (to get the record sixth victory).
“It was a pity there was a loser. That’s how you sum it up. Doyle could have done a little bit better and got a dead-heat!”
He went on: “They are two such admirable horses and it’s delightful to train them. I always felt he wouldn’t get there until the last 100 yards or so.
“It’s a great mid-season race and we’ve been lucky enough to do well in it. It’s a great team effort, you have no idea how much they put into these horses.
“He showed in the Sheema Classic that he gets 12 (furlongs). I didn’t have any difficulty about the distance.
“I couldn’t split them and I don’t think the handicapper could split them.”
Having gone almost three years without a domestic Group One winner until the victory of Ulysses in last year’s Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, Stoute has now saddled five top-level winners in Britain since last July.
The cricket-loving trainer said: “If you look closely we were having Group winners abroad in the Breeders’ Cup etc. I’m never going to be champion trainer again as I don’t have the numbers and the quality has deteriorated slightly, but at least we are making a few runs.”
On future plans for the winner, he said: “Let’s stop and think. I never find that an intelligent question (next race), let’s go home and see how they come out of it.”
An overjoyed Doyle, who last weekend won his first Irish Oaks with Sea Of Class, said: “You’ll be doing well if there’s a happier fellow today than me.
“He’s a star, there were questions over his best trip, what’s his best trip now? Winning the King George over a mile and a half – he’s so versatile.
“I ended up following Coronet, which wasn’t really the plan, I wanted to be in front of her and if I had have been I think I would have won a bit easier.
“I left him a bit of a task, they went quick and I didn’t want to start chasing a position.
“It looks great, but if I’d been beaten a neck I’d have been really frustrated.
“When you’re on a bit of a roll things seem to fall right – let’s hope it can continue.”
There was a slight sting in the tail for both Doyle and Buick, after the stewards inquired into their use of the whip from around a furlong and a half out. Doyle was handed a four-day ban and Buick suspended for two days.
John Gosden had been forced to rule Cracksman out late in the day due to the fast ground, but was still represented by Coronet and was happy with her performance under Olivier Peslier.
He said: “I think on the form with Salouen in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud she was spot on to be third. She had to wait for a run and the ground was a bit quick for her.
“He said she wasn’t entirely happy on the ground, but she was third in a King George and I think for a filly that is pretty impressive on her CV.
“We will freshen her up and go for the Yorkshire Oaks.”