The 2013 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes featured a record-breaking performance from overall winner Novellist. In a week that saw Prince George of Cambridge's birth—the baby who will eventually become King George VII—it is fitting that England's most prestigious flat race ended in such spectacular style.
Before we take a look at the most impressive horses from the July 27 meet, here's an opportunity to get up to speed with the recent run along Ascot's famous course:
As only the second German-trained winner of the King George VI Stakes, Novellist will be long remembered for a performance of exceptional power. The four-year-old horse showed incredible strength to pace away from a tight pack in the Group 1 contest, landing jockey Johnny Murtagh his fourth King George VI win in the last 10 years. As reported by the Daily Mail, Murtagh was understandably pleased:
He's a very high-class horse with a good engine. I loved the way when I asked him to stretch he wanted to get on with it. He stretched well - pulling him up was probably the hardest part.
I can't thank the owner and trainer enough. He feels like a very good horse. He'd be up there with my other King George winners.
Novellist was able to munch through the final furlong in memorable style. A course-record time of 2:24.60 beats the previous best by over two seconds, indicating conditions were right for a huge win. Despite the suggestion, Betfair's Simon Rowlands doesn't believe doubters have the opportunity to be overly cynical about the horse's achievements.
Often enough, over the years, time records have been a reflection of fast ground and a strong pace as much as of the emergence of a horse of superlative ability.
But to break a course record at Ascot - where fast ground and superlative horses are far from rare - and to do so by more than 2 seconds, as Novellist did in Saturday's feature race, has to make you sit up and take notice.
Murtagh is an experienced winner, and Novellist has the ability to grow into races. The horse's stamina and willingness to steadily improve its speed left the other contenders with little chance of catching up. This was a tactically astute and expertly controlled display from all involved.
Sir Michael Stoute was looking to become the most successful King George VI Stakes trainer in history with his sixth win at the year's event.
Although widely regarded as an outside bet, Stoute has a new star on his hands in the shape of three-year-old Hillstar. The up-and-coming horse competed with favourite Cirrus Des Aigles throughout the race and eventually managed to sprint clear at the final furlong. Although Cirrus Des Aigles submitted an extremely disappointing performance, Hillstar's achievement saw the horse finish third.
If the course had been a tad longer, Stoute may even have celebrated a runner-up. Hillstar was rapidly gaining on Trading Leather and highlighted tremendous potential for future competition.
While the likes of Universal and Ektihaam set a blistering early pace during the race, Novellist and Hillstar finished the event with their reputations galvanised. For Cirrus Des Aigles and Trading Leather, it's back to the drawing board.