Hurricane Lane could be the yardstick

Saturday’s high-quality renewal of the G1 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot presents the customary configuration of form elements presented for analysis and scrutiny, writes JONATHAN QUAYLE HIGGINS.

To me, studying race form often conjures up the image of an old scientist in a lab, looking at various samples through a microscope, making notes on the side and then having a light go up as he nods and puts one sample aside. This, yes, this is the one!

There could also be some light classical music in the background, and perhaps the soothing voice of David Attenborough or maybe Michael Caine saying, ‘And now, after all that, he reaches purposefully for his phone, dials his bookmaker and proceeds to place his bet…’

That’s the romantic notion of course, and the scientist’s sample of choice always proves to be a winner. In the real world, most of us look at the form of a race like this, decide that it’s too much effort to scan through all the applicable race replays and that the favourite will probably win. And then we let expletives fly everywhere when it doesn’t.

When you’ve studied race form and looked at replays for most days of your working life, you develop something of a “gut feeling” – not limited to professional punters at all and not fresh news. They don’t come too often, but they point you in a winning direction, perhaps 6 out of 10 times? (That’s an estimate, it could be 1 out f 10 because one tends to celebrate the ‘gut feeling’ winners with more champagne and hence remember them better!) 

I have a gut feeling about the King George and I believe Charlie Appleby is the man to point me to it. I don’t have Charlie’s number and I won’t have the nuts to ask him straight up, but I do have a suspicion that this year’s Derby result was a topsy-turvy reflection of the true abilities of Adayar and Hurricane Lane. I think that Hurricane Lane (who lost his two front shoes when beaten 7,75-lengths by his stablemate that day) is in fact a few lengths better than Alyadar.

Why am I mentioning Hurricane Lane, who is not in this race? Well, because his form points me directly to Lone Eagle, who gave the rising star plenty of cheek in the Irish Derby and could be the one to upset both Adayar and Love in this renewal of the King George.

Hurricane Lane has gone on to win the G1 Grand Prix De Paris (franking Irish Derby form with Wordsworth) and is now favourite for the ‘Arc’ alongside Love.

Some would say, just keep it simple. Alyadar, on Derby form is better than Hurricane Lane, and Love, the super filly, is better than both. Just back Love, get it over with, don’t look for an upset, Sit back, take the cash!

I don’t think so. Somehow, I haven’t been getting the right vibes from Aidan O’Brien’s recent post-race comments about Love. He’s hard to read seven days a week, so that’s just my perception. Don’t hold me to it. Second, she’s up against her toughest rivals to date, she’s going to come play with some big lads here. It’s not race over, by a long way!

If one were to accept that Lone Eagle is, at most, one length inferior to the now well-proven Hurricane Lane, then Martyn Meade’s runner is the one they will all have to beat.

Meade told Racing Post: “Lone Eagle came out of the Irish Derby without a worry and didn’t lose much weight with the travelling. He eats brilliantly and we don’t need to do a lot with him. He’s worked once since then, but what has happened since is the Grand Prix de Paris, which completely franks the form.

“It’s pretty good form. I think we would need to improve on that by a couple of pounds looking at Love, but you can do all the scientific analysis you want and come Saturday it’ll be how the race is run. He’s not a sprinter, but he’s quick through the gears, a proper horse I reckon, and we’ll see on Saturday whether he’ll really go to the top or what his level is.

“He liked the big galloping course at the Curragh and I think Ascot will be good for him as well and hopefully we can see his class, and whether it’s good enough.”

There’s 6-1 on offer about Lone Eagle (from 12s!), who happens to be a son of Galileo and is the runner that had his jockey declared within minutes of the final field being announced – one Frankie Dettori, who seeks a record eighth win in the King George.

Let’s take our chances. Six’s is a value price about Lone Eagle and good value in a good horse race makes any bettor’s life worth living!

READ JONATHAN QUAYLE HIGGINS ON THURSDAY, HERE.

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