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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Godolphin feeling good about Jack Hobbs' chances at Ascot

Dubai Sheema Classic winner struggled in Prince of Wales’s Stakes but there is optimism ahead of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Saturday.

Jack Hobbs won the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan Racecourse in March. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Jack Hobbs won the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan Racecourse in March. Francois Nel / Getty Images

Godolphin are confident the underfoot conditions and a return to 2,400 metres would suit Jack Hobbs when he takes on nine others in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

The Dubai Sheema Classic winner on the Dubai World Cup night in March is out to restore his status as a top-class middle-distance runner after being tailed off in the eight-runner Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 21 in his last start.

William Buick, who has ridden the five-year-old by Halling in his last eight starts, says the conditions are in his favour.

“He has an excellent chance, especially as he is coming back to a mile and a half on rain-softened ground, two major factors in his favour,” Buick said of the 2015 Investec Derby runner up and winner of the Irish equivalent.

“It is fair to say he was uncomfortable on the ground when eighth to Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. It was too fast for him and he never let himself down on that ground.”

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Jack Hobbs has won five of his 11 career starts and has been placed in another four. However, despite the conditions expected to suit him this time, he concedes a stone to the dual Oaks winner Enable.

Interestingly, both Jack Hobbs and Enable are trained by John Gosden for two different owners. The filly in the silks of Prince Khalid Abdullah has won four of her five starts, including the English and Irish Oaks, both under Frankie Dettori.

“We will all have to produce our A-game to beat Enable after her impressive wide-margin victories at Epsom and the Curragh,” said Buick, who won this race on the Gosden-trained Nathaniel in 2011.

Like Buick, Gosden also was optimistic of Jack Hobbs’s bouncing back from his defeat.

“He was very fortunate to get his ground in Dubai, but not so fortunate at Royal Ascot,” the trainer added. “It had always been the plan to run him in the Prince of Wales's. He had run brilliantly over one mile and a quarter in autumn ground, and I think the 34-centigrade heat and the lightning-fast track at Royal Ascot did not suit him.

“He's back to probably his best distance and he's back to some give in the ground, so that should play to his strengths.”

Godolphin has three entered in the 10-runner field with the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Benbatle and Maverick Wave, another from Gosden’s stable, set to run as the pacemaker.

Bin Suroor quietly fancies his G2 Dante Stakes runner up and the Derby fifth at Epsom. “He won well at Royal Ascot [G3 Hampton Court Stakes in his last start] and is improving with time,” he said. “His latest piece of work on Monday went nicely and good to soft ground will be fine for him.

“He is coming up against some of the best horses, but we have been happy with his preparation and I am looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”

The race, however, is not between the Godolphin horses and Enable. It has drawn a strong line up that includes the Aidan O’Brien-trained duo Highland Reel, winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, and Idaho, the G2 Hardwick Stakes victor.

Ulysses trained by Michael Stoute under the British champion jockey Jim Crowley cannot be ruled out of the equation after edging out Godolphin’s Barney Roy in the G1 Eclipse at Sandown in June.

Completing the field are the Clive Cox-trained My Dream Boat, David Simcock’s Desert Encounter and Sixties Song, a dual G1 winner in Argentina.