King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is one of the highlights of the flat racing season, a Group 1 contest over a mile and a half. It often features a clash between the Epsom Derby winner and the best older horses. The epic clash between Grundy and Bustino in 1975 is was dubbed “the race of the century” while John Gosden’s Enable recently became the first horse in history to win the race three times.

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes

The Race

The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes takes place at Ascot in July. It often attracts Derby horses and provides significant clues for the outcome of top International races like the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Breeders’ Cup Turf. It is one of the top middle distance races in Europe and a true test of stamina. There is usually a relatively small field so there are rarely excuses for beaten horses.

Famous King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes Winners & History

The inaugural King George was held in 1951 with victory going to the three-year-old Supreme Court. The race was formed by the amalgamation of two separate races; The King George VI Stakes over two miles and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes over a mile and a half. The race immediately began to attract the top horses in training with early winners including Pinza (1953), Her Majesty The Queen’s Aureole (1954) and dual Arc de Triomphe winner Ribot (1956).

The 1970’s were the golden age for the King George with a string of famous winners. Triple Crown winner Nijinsky (1970) won this race and was followed by racing legends Mill Reef (1971) and Brigadier Gerard (1972). The brilliant French mare Dahlia won for Maurice Zilber in 1973 and 1974 before Grundy’s memorable victory in 1975.

Grundy went to Ascot as the winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby. He started 4-5 favourite despite the presence of hat-trick seeking Dahlia and St Leger winner Bustino. Connections of the Leger winner also ran Highest and Kinglet as pacemakers, intent on stretching Grundy’s stamina and playing to the strengths of Bustino. Grundy and Bustino duelled bravely all the way up the home straight with Grundy prevailing by half a length in a new race record time.

Other winners in the 1970’s included Derby winners The Minstrel (1977) and Troy (1979). Shergar added his name to the roll of honour in 1981 and was later joined by Dancing Brave (1986) and Nashwan (1989). Dancing Brave’s victory was seen as revenge over Epsom conqueror Shahrastani and he would later confirm his superiority with an electric performance in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Other Classic winners to prevail in the King George include Lammtarra (1995), Galileo (2001) and Hurricane Run (2006). The star of recent years has been Enable who won the race a record three times for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

Key King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes Trials

The two key trials for the King George in recent years have been the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park. These two races account for five of the last twelve winners between them. Harbinger won the Hardwicke before smashing the course record in this race in 2010. Enable won the Eclipse in 2019 before claiming the second of her three King George victories. This is no longer an automatic choice for Epsom Derby winners, although Adayar completed the double in 2021 for Godolphin, the first to do so since Galileo twenty years’ previously.

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes Betting Trends

Favourites have a good record in this race, winning 11 of the last twenty runnings. This includes a sequence of six consecutive seasons from 2004 to 2009 and five out of six between 2016 and 2021. The only defeated favourite in recent years was in 2018 when Crystal Ocean (6-4) was beaten by stable companion Poet’s Word (7-4).

Enable started 5-4 for her first King George in 2017 and was odds-on in both of her subsequent victories. There has not been a single double-figure priced winner of the King George in the last twenty years, the closest to it being 9-1 shot Danedream in 2012.

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes Stats

Horses aged three and four had dominated this race between 2000 and 2018 before Poet’s Word won at the age of five and Enable won as a five and as a six-year-old. Adayar (2021) restored the balance when following up his Epsom Derby victory in good style.

The last twelve King George winners had all won previously over a mile and a half and all had won at least once at Group 1 or Group 2 level. An official rating of 118 or higher is usually required to win this race. Nathaniel (2011) and Taghrooda (2014) were just below that mark on 115 and 116 respectively while the highest rated was Enable (128 in 2020).

Top Trainers and Jockeys

Sir Michael Stoute is the leading trainer in the history of the King George with six winners. He famously won with Shergar in 1981 with his five subsequent victories were courtesy of Opera House (1993), Golan (2002), Conduit (2009), Harbinger (2010) and Poet’s Word (2018).

John Gosden has five victories to his credit, three of them with Enable. His other winners were Nathaniel (2011) and Taghrooda (2014). Saeed bin Suroor has also won it five times, but his most recent was Doyen back in 2004.

Frankie Dettori equalled Lester Piggott’s record of seven King George winners when riding Enable to her third victory in 2020. His other successes came aboard Lammtarra (1995), Swain (1998), Daylami (1999) and Doyen (2004).

Betting on the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes has a lively ante-post market which usually takes shape after the Royal Ascot. There is additional interest when the Epsom Derby winner is declared. Favourites have a terrific record in this showpiece event and it is seldom a race in which to look beyond the obvious.

Six of the last eleven King George winners won on their next outing. Enable went on to win the Yorkshire Oaks in 2017 and 2019 and subsequently won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2017. Danedream (2012) and Novellist (2013) won the Grosser Preis Von Baden on their next start with Postponed (2015) taking the Prix Foy at Longchamp.

Summary

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is one of the highlights of the flat racing season. It has a rich history and has been won by many legends of the turf. It can produce a fascinating clash of the generations with Adayar becoming the latest Derby winner on the roll of honour in 2021.

As the Co-Founder of British Racecourses, I love the chance to share my enjoyment of racing with others. As a family, we have always loved the racing and went to Haydock races as kids, as often as we could. We are now lucky enough to own some fantastic racehorses who we will follow around the tracks and we have had some great wins. As part of British Racecourses, I enjoy visiting and reviewing the racecourses that we visit, all of which I think have something to offer and are brilliant in their own ways.