English King out to restate pretensions

Derby form put to the test in Gordon Stakes.

  • Wednesday 29 July
  • News
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Ed Walker is hoping English King can turn around the Derby form with Khalifa Sat and confirm his Group One potential in the John Pearce Racing Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

The Camelot colt shot to prominence in the Epsom betting after a facile trial success at Lingfield, but he could finish only fifth behind surprise all-the-way winner Serpentine on the big day earlier this month.

Khalifa Sat finished second on that occasion, three-quarters of a length ahead of English King – and while Walker’s charge was making up ground in the finish, he has full respect for the Derby runner-up.

Walker said: “He’s in great form – it’s like a mini re-run of the Derby.

“The ground should suit – he should handle the track and he hasn’t missed a beat since Epsom.

“He was (finishing fast at Epsom), but take nothing away from Khalifa Sat – he won a trial and finished second in the Derby and is clearly a very good horse.

“We have great respect for Khalifa Sat and the others, but we are obviously hopeful he can turn the tables after a bit of a strange race at Epsom.”

The Gordon Stakes is traditionally viewed as a St Leger trial – but Walker thinks English King unlikely to head to Doncaster, with a possible rematch with Serpentine in the Grand Prix de Paris at ParisLongchamp in September currently on connections’ radar instead.

He added: “The Leger would be unlikely. We will see how it goes at Goodwood, but we would be hoping to go for something like the Grand Prix de Paris.

“It is shaping into a great race, but everything seems to be this year because it has all been condensed. It’s been great for viewing, though, because that is what sport is all about – the best taking on the best.

“Hopefully he can prove to us he deserves to take on the best, but we will certainly learn a bit more this week.”

Khalifa Sat won Goodwood’s Listed Cocked Hat Stakes over 11 furlongs before his Epsom run, and his trainer Andrew Balding feels a similar level to his Derby effort might be enough.

He said: “The course and the drying ground should suit him – and all being well, a reproduction of his Epsom form should give him every chance.”

Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul was well touted over the winter, but failed to sparkle on his reappearance at Royal Ascot before finishing sixth – beaten three-quarters of a length by English King – in the Derby.

The Ballydoyle handler thinks the Galileo colt will take another step forward, but is uncertain as to his optimum trip.

He said: “He seems to have come out of the Derby well – we’ve been very happy with him since.

“He’s a big, strong, powerful horse who is made like a miler – and he’s not the easiest to get fit. He carries weight, and we’re just trying to get it off him.

“We think racing is going to bring out the best in him. We think he gets a mile and a half, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to go back in trip.”

Highland Chief was another to line up at Epsom, but he finished off the pace in 10th, beaten 14 lengths by the winner.

Oliver Cole, who trains the colt in partnership with his father Paul, recognises the Royal Ascot winner is facing another stern examination at Goodwood.

He said: “It’s almost like the Derby all over again – it does look a very hot race.

“I think we just have to put a line through his run at Epsom. He’s working well and hopefully going into the race in great form.

“I’m more hopeful than expectant, because it is such a strong race, but we’re looking forward to running him.”

Six go to post – with Bahrain Trophy winner Al Aasy representing William Haggas, while Mark Johnston runs Glasgow Stakes hero Subjectivist.

Haggas said of the former: “He has to carry a penalty, which doesn’t make things easy, but he is a pretty smart horse.

“He’s in good order. It’s a strong race, so he will need to produce a very good performance to give 3lb away and win.”

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