Ryan Moore has nominated St Nicholas Abbey as “the best horse in the race” ahead of Saturday’s King George VI Queen Elizabeth Stakes, despite the fact that he will be in opposition aboard the fancied Sea Moon for Sir Michael Stoute.
On course to regain the jockeys’ championship title this year, Moore’s recent winning run has been helped by a return to form from Sea Moon’s trainer Sir Michael Stoute.
However, the jockey feels that Sea Moon may have to improve again from his recent Hardwicke Stakes victory if he is to take the Betfair-sponsored £1m prize at the expense of St Nicholas Abbey, whom he chased home in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf.
There was a twist in the betting as St Nicholas Abbey drifted markedly on the Betfair betting exchange on Wednesday. The original ante-post favourite touched a high of 10-1 before setting at 4-1 third-best at around 2pm.
“There’s not a great deal between them and there is a lot of depth to the race this year,” he said. “But to me St Nicholas Abbey is the best horse in the race. I was impressed with him in the Coronation Cup. He looked good in Dubai, he was very good in the Breeders’ Cup. He probably hasn’t got the credit he deserves. He’s very good.
“Sea Moon disappointed a bit in the St Leger but other than that he always looked a very smart horse and he came forward like we thought he would when he won at Royal Ascot last time.
“First time out at Goodwood, it was really quick ground, we were running downhill. Because nobody wanted to make it, we’d gone quite steady. They came and attacked very early and it just didn’t suit him. But he grabbed hold quite late and showed a good attitude.
“That race was just a step. He was never going to be too wound up for his first run and that’s how it worked out because he won the Hardwicke well.”
Moore agreed that unlucky-in-running second Dunaden should have finished closer, but felt his mount would still have finished on top even had the runner-up enjoyed a clearer passage.
“I think it was a solidly run race and it was a fair enough race for everything else,” he said. “The second horse got caught in traffic, got stopped. He was very impressive when he won the Hong Kong Vase and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him this year. But my horse had the race won a furlong out.
“Nathaniel’s rock solid. His form’s there and he won the race last year. It’s going to be a good race. After the Derby, it’s the most important race of the year. The Champion Stakes is obviously there, but it’s still in a position where you can have the Arc and the Breeders’ Cup take away from it. This race should be the highlight of the midsummer.”
Moore also said he respected the Japanese challenger Deep Brillante, although his experiences riding in Tokyo left him with concerns as to how he would handle the track at Ascot.
“Japanese horses are top class,” he said. “They perform very well. Look at how they’ve done recently. Dubai Cups, Melbourne Cups. They’re serious horses, beautiful-looking horses. This horse won the Japanese Derby. The problem for them is that the going will be very, very different. The tracks out there drain so well they can go from soft ground to good ground in a few hours.
“Stamina won’t be an issue. You’ve got to stay in Japan. They breed for a lot of stamina. The only worry would be softer ground than what he is used to.”
And the jockey, Yasunari Iwata? “He’s ridden in all the big races and won a lot of them,” said Moore. “I wouldn’t mind his cheque.”