JOCKEY James Doyle was jubilant after a rattling late run on Poet’s Word to land the iconic King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and cap a summer to remember.
“You’ll be doing well if there’s a happier fellow today than me,” declared the nerveless rider who, a week earlier, had come from last to first to land the Irish Oaks on Sea Of Class.
Step forward veteran trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who was winning Flat racing’s mid-summer centre-piece – a Group One mile-and-a-half championship race for all horses – for a record sixth time.
Not only this, but the legendary Stoute also trained course specialist Crystal Ocean, who looked to have a decisive lead under William Buick before being worn down in a frantic finish in which the trainer could not lose.
Though the race lost some of its lustre with the absence of John Gosden’s Cracksman on account of the fast ground, it will be remembered for these stablemates going head-to-head late on.
In winning by a neck, Poet’s Word is a worthy middle-distance champion. After winning the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot over 10 furlongs, the step up in trip proved no hindrance for this five-year-old, who has been given time to develop, and mature, by the patient Stoute.
Next month’s Juddmonte International at York, and a clash with the three-year-old Classic generation headed by Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior, looks a logical target.
“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,” eulogised Doyle, 30, after making his first King George ride a winning one.
“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.
Stoute, who first won the King George in 1981 with the mighty Shergar, said: “It was 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!
“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.”
Asked about future plans, he added: “I never find that an intelligent question (next race), let’s go home and see how they come out of it.”
Having gone almost three years without a domestic Group One winner until the victory of Ulysses in last year’s Coral-Eclipse, Stoute, who become the winning-most trainer at the Royal meeting in June, has now saddled five top-level winners in Britain since last July.
The cricket-loving Stoute 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.”
Then, in the understatement of the year, he added: “At least we are making a few runs.”
The same could be said for North Yorkshire-trained Burnt Sugar, who completed a big summer handicap double when adding the Gigaset International Stakes to his success in the Bunbury Cup two weeks ago.
Roger Fell’s in-form six-year-old, owned by Middlheam Park Racing, burst through the pack to lead in the final furlong and grab the spoils under jockey Shane Kelly.
He said: “He travelled great, it’s the first time I’ve ridden him, but I spoke to Paul Hanagan, who had ridden him before, and Roger was keen on his chances.
“I was told to ride him with plenty of confidence and not to get to the front too soon, as he dosses a bit when he gets to the front. If I had my time over again I would probably have delayed my challenge.
“He was going so well I didn’t want to be disappointing him. He is a smart horse. When you are held up you can afford to make a few manoeuvres. I had it in my head once I left the gate I was going to go left.
“He probably would have still won if I stayed where I was. He was by the far the best horse.”
Just like Poet’s Word in the big race.