Defeating Enable is a challenge many have tried and ultimately failed to complete – but James Doyle hopes Crystal Ocean can buck that trend in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Having teamed up with Sir Michael Stoute to claim the midsummer showpiece 12 months ago through Poet’s Word, the 31-year-old will again join forces with the Newmarket handler – this time on the horse he beat 12 months ago.
Though acknowledging the task of mastering the dual Arc heroine and 2017 winner is a tough as they come, Doyle is hopeful he is on the right horse to pick up the pieces, should she slip up and have a rare off day.
Doyle said: “It’s a big ride to get. He comes up against Enable, who is the queen of the turf at the minute and her record is absolutely faultless.
“My fellow’s rating is higher, but it’s hard to crib anything Enable has done. We are fully aware of the task we have at hand, but I’m thankful to Sir Michael Stoute and his owners for giving me the chance and entrusting a horse like him in my care.
“Everyone has an off-day at some stage, though Enable’s off-day is probably a pretty good day in most people’s books.
“You never wish to lower the colours of any horse, but we would be pretty pleased if we win with our fellow.”
In their one previous meeting in a Group Three at Kempton last season, Crystal Ocean found Enable too strong.
But with the son of Sea The Stars arriving on the back of his first Group One win in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting, and with a step back in trip likely to be in his favour, Doyle has cause for optimism.
Doyle added: “He looked very good at Ascot and has been good on each start this season, but at Ascot he looked in a rich vein of form and beat a good filly in Magical, who got somewhere in the vicinity of Enable in the Eclipse.
“He gave a lot of weight to her that day at Kempton (8lb) and he hasn’t got to give her as much this time (3lb).”
“I thought he did well at Royal Ascot, as it was a bit of a slog-fest as the way the ground went it was quite testing conditions, which helped him over the mile and a quarter.
“Back up in trip, on what you would imagine would be better ground, should be right up his street. It will be interesting.”
The betting suggests it is largely a two-horse race between Enable and Crystal Ocean, but Doyle feels there are plenty of other potential dangers lurking in the field that could have a say in the outcome.
He said: “Crystal Ocean is clear second-favourite in the betting, which he is entitled to be. It is nice he is in the race to give it a good feel.
“Don’t forget Aidan (O’Brien) has the Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, so it is a nice renewal of the race.
“Everyone wants to win the King George – it’s just one of those great races in the season.”
There are few better than Classic-winning handler Stoute at getting the best out of older horses, and after delivering him a record-breaking sixth victory last year, it would mean as much again to Doyle if he could extend that sequence.
Doyle said: “Poet’s Word was a very brave horse last year and Crystal Ocean was second that day. It was just nice to win the King George. It is a very prestigious race and it was great to get it on the CV.
“It was great to win it for Sir Michael Stoute – his record in these races is unbelievable and what a wonderful man he is to ride for.
“Going through the history of the horses he has trained is phenomenal. His CV is unbelievable and everyone speaks so highly of him.
“He is one of those trainers you get a buzz from when you get a ride for, so winning another King George for him would be fantastic.”