Danedream pips Nathaniel in King George thriller
Teruya Yoshida's decision to purchase a half share in Danedream yielded an instant dividend in last term's Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and, despite reverses in the Group 1 Japan Cup and Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, the Longchamp heroine bounced back to win a thrilling renewal of Saturday's Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth at Ascot.
Settled in mid-division until edging into contention under Andrasch Starke on the home turn, the 9-1 chance was sent in pursuit of defending champion Nathaniel inside the final quarter-mile and kept on relentlessly to nail that rival by a nose on the line to become Germany's first winner of Britain's midsummer championship. St Nicholas Abbey ran on strongly from the rear to claim third for a second straight year, 1 1/2 lengths further back.
"It is a great feeling, it is very important for Germany and great for German racing," enthused trainer Peter Schiergen. "If she's well and in form, we will go to Baden-Baden (for the September 2 Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden) next, and after that we will go back for the (October 7) Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe."
Danedream's rapid rise through the ranks began with a third in last term's Group 2 Derby Italiano at Rome's Capanelle, and gained momentum with victory in the Group 2 Oaks d'Italia at Milan next time. The bay slipped to fifth in Saint-Cloud's Group 2 Prix de Malleret, but went on a thrashing spree in her next three starts.
Triumphs by five lengths in Hoppegarten's Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin, and by six lengths in the Grosser Preis von Baden, persuaded Teruya Yoshida to purchase a half-share, and he reaped immediate reward with Danedream's five-length promenade in the Arc. She closed 2011 with a sixth in the Japan Cup, and annexed the May 20 Group 2 Grosser Preis der Badischen Unternehmer back at Baden-Baden before running last of four in the June 24 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
The eventual winner settled in mid-pack through the early stages here as St Nicholas Abbey's rabbit, Robin Hood, took time to gain pole position. Inching ever closer alongside Nathaniel rounding the final turn, she was sent in pursuit of that temporary chaperone as Ryan Moore kicked for home on last year's hero inside the two pole. Danedream was one length down on that rival entering the final eighth, but Andrasch Starke provided full force from the saddle in the latter stages of a pulsating renewal, and she was driven out to put her nose in front right on the line. Her win was the first by a distaffer since Time Charter in 1983.
"It was a close, it was only a nose, but I hoped the photo-finish went my way and it did," Starke said. "It was very tight, but I had a good feeling. I don't know what happened (at Saint-Cloud) last time, but she was in good shape leading up to this race. She is unbelievably tough, she fought hard and this is definitely the biggest moment of my life."
"When she crossed the line I thought she might have been second, and I was delighted to her number announced first," Schiergen said. "Her form from race to race is as good as last year, but there was no pace and she didn't travel well through the race last time. There was a good pace today, and she traveled much better."
Nathaniel failed, by the width of a flared nostril, to make it back-to-back victories in the contest, but trainer John Gosden was nonetheless delighted with last month's Group 1 Eclipse hero.
"I stood on the line and couldn't tell who had won, but Nathaniel ran a great race and I'm really thrilled with him," the Newmarket conditioner said. "He has run his race quite brilliantly, and just look at the horses who have finished behind him. I can't believe that, in two weeks, he has come back (from the Eclipse) and put two races like that back to back. It is quite impressive, so full marks to him.
"We'll put him away for a break -- I'd love to come back here for the (October 21 Group 1) Champion Stakes, and there is also the Arc as an option.
"Danedream destroyed the colts in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last year, she has come back to her best and is simply marvelous. She didn't seem happy on the loose ground at Saint-Cloud last time, but has come here today and run a blinder."
St Nicholas Abbey was unable to better last year's third-place finish, but ran on strongly in the straight to claim a podium position once again.
"St Nicholas Abbey ran a great race," trainer Aidan O'Brien told PA Sport. "He has to be held up like that, and we were just worried about the dead ground, as he can't quicken like he normally does. There'll be other races for him."
Sea Moon, who went off as the crowd's 2-1 pick, was unable to match his winning performance in last month's Group 2 Hardwicke at Royal Ascot and finished fifth.
"There's nothing to report; Sea Moon just didn't quite fire as we hoped he might," Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Khalid Abdulla, told PA Sport. "He didn't quite travel through the race as we hoped, and he didn't pick up when he needed to. We'll have to have a think about what we do next."
William Buick and Joseph O'Brien received suspensions for their rides aboard Nathaniel and St Nicholas Abbey, respectively. Buick was banned for two days, August 5-6, while O'Brien will miss the final day of the Glorious Goodwood meet having incurred a seven-day ban which runs August 4-10. The latter was also fined £900.
Send this article to a friend