Ribot - very best of an elite; A CENTURY OF RACING.
The best contest in the series must surely have been the magnificent duel between Grundy and Bustino in 1975, which was widely acclaimed at the time as the race of the century and remains a legitimate candidate for that distinction.
For a display of overwhelming superiority, there was probably nothing to beat the spectacle of Nijinsky toying with Blakeney, the previous year's Derby winner, in 1970.
But neither Grundy nor Nijinsky could be ranked as the best of King George winners. And, ironically, the two who dispute that honour were not at their brilliant best in their Ascot triumphs.
Brigadier Gerard was out of his distance in 1972, relying on bravery to overcome a horse-Parnell-who was a more natural stayer but, in terms of sheer class, patently his inferior by the best part of a stone.
Ribot's jockey, Enrico Camici, felt obliged to apologise for his mount's supposedly sluggish effort over the muddy Ascot terrain in 1956. All the Tenerani colt had managed to do was pound out a comprehensive victory by five lengths over High Veldt-a below-par performance that nevertheless registered the widest winning margin until Mill Reef surpassed it 15 years later.
Ribot did not have to face, on a regular basis, the calibre of competition that Brigadier Gerard was wont to brush aside, and in Italy, where he had 13 of his 16 races, his opposition was sometimes negligible.
But Brigadier Gerard never ventured abroad and Ribot's record uniquely included a King George and two renewals of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
IF champion of Italy at two was no big deal, champion of Europe at three and four certainly was. He started at 9-1 for his first Arc, as the Longchamp crowd apparently was unimpressed by his string of victories on his home soil.
A resounding three-length win over Beau Prince altered perceptions and his supremacy was confirmed two weeks later when he slammed Norman by 15 lengths in the Premio del Jockey Club at San Siro.
Seven wide-margin scores over a variety of distances saw Ribot's stock rise ever higher as a four-year-old.
Remarkably, he tuned up for Ascot with an outing in the 15-furlong Gran Premio di Milano and won that by eight lengths from the top-class Tissot.
The prep race chosen for his second Arc was over nine furlongs and he won that by eight lengths over Magabit, victor in Italy's 2,000 Guineas.
The field for the 1956 Arc was supposedly the strongest on record up to that time, as Ribot's 19 challengers included representatives of the best form in England, France, Ireland and America.
But for all that array of talent ranged against him, it proved to be no contest. Ribot pulverised his rivals in the straight, leaving them like a bullet from a rifle, and stormed home six lengths clear of Britain's top three-year-old, Talgo, who had won the Irish Derby by the same margin.
Many present that day felt that they had seen the Horse of the Century. Ribot had certainly set the standard that other aspirants would need to match.
No other King George winner has done so.
TANTIEME was a bad traveller and never showed in England the form which made him a great champion in France; his third place in the 1951 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes qualifies him as the best horse ever to be beaten in the race, writes John Randall.
That inaugural King George attracted a field which, for strength in depth, has seldom been matched in any race in Britain.
Nevertheless, only the runaway Derby winner Arctic Prince was preferred in the betting to Tantieme, a four-year-old who had already notched the first of his two victories in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and won the Coronation Cup.
Held up in a strongly-run race, the French star made late progress to take third place but was half a dozen lengths behind the two principals, Supreme Court and Zucchero.
That was Tantieme's sole defeat that season. On his only subsequent start he scored another decisive victory in the Arc to prove himself, despite the Ascot result, the champion of Europe.
Racehorses of 1951 said: "We agree with the French critics who assert that in both his races in England he ran some pounds below his best form."
The next-best King George losers have been Rheingold, who ran below par when second to Dahlia in 1973, and Bustino, just beaten by Grundy in their epic duel in 1975.
NASRAM caused the biggest upset in King George history when his fluke victory over Santa Claus in 1964 made him the worst horse ever to win the race, writes John Randall.
Santa Claus, impressive winner of the Derby and Irish Derby, was a champion and scared away all but three rivals, which made it (jointly) the smallest King George field ever. At 2-13, he was the hottest favourite in the race's history.
There is no doubt that Santa Claus should have won, but he was beaten by a combination of hard ground and bad jockeyship.
The ground suited Nasram, but not Santa Claus; and the latter was ridden by the inexperienced Willie Burke, who gave him too much to do in the short Ascot straight. Nasram led all the way and had two lengths to spare at the line.
The King George was the only race the faint-hearted Nasram won in eight starts that season and he finished well behind in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Santa Claus was second to Prince Royal).
The four-year-old, trained in France by Ernie Fellows, was a front-runner who capitulated when challenged, and at Ascot he was never challenged.
However, Nasram did have one positive distinction-he had the best pedigree of any King George winner, being by Nasrullah out of Arc runner-up La Mirambule. He was also more successful at stud than many Ascot heroes, as he sired Naskra and German champion Athenagoras.
Mill Reef (1971)
Brigadier Gerard (1972)
Dancing Brave (1986)
Reference Point (1987)
Supreme Court (1951)
Right Royal (1961)
Dahlia (1973, 74)
The Minstrel (1977)
Ile de Bourbon (1978)
St Jovite (1992)
Swain (1997, 98)
Royal Palace (1968)
Park Top (1969)
Opera House (1993)
Royal Palace (1968)
Park Top (1969)
Opera House (1993)
Meadow Court (1965)
Aunt Edith (1966)
Time Charter (1983)
King's Theatre (1994)
Dahlia (1973, 74), Swain (1997, 98)
Greatest margin of victory
7 lengths: Generous (1991)
Smallest margin of victory
Short head: Montaval (1957),
The Minstrel (1977)
Aunt Edith (1966), Park Top (1969), Dahlia (1973, 74), Pawneese (1976), Time Charter (1983)
Kalaglow (1982), Daylami (1999)
Longest winning odds
20-1: Montaval (1957)
Shortest winning odds
2-9: Nashwan (1989)
19 in 1951
4 in 1961 and 1964
2:26.98: Grundy (1975)
Trained in Ireland
Ballymoss (1958), Ragusa (1963), Meadow Court (1965), Nijinsky (1970), The Minstrel (1977), St Jovite (1992)
Trained in France
Vimy (1955), Montaval (1957), Right Royal (1961), Match (1962), Nasram (1964), Dahlia (1973, 74), Pawneese (1976)
Trained in Italy
Ribot (16 races), Lammtarra (4 races)
3 wins: Sheikh Mohammed (1990, 93, 94),
Godolphin (1997, 98, 99)
4 wins: Dick Hern (1972, 79, 80, 85),
Saeed bin Suroor (1995, 97, 98, 99)
7 wins: Lester Piggott (1965, 66, 69, 70,
74, 77, 84)
2 wins: Vaguely Noble (1973, 74),
Northern Dancer (1970, 77),
Great Nephew (1975, 81),
Sadler's Wells (1993, 94), Nijinsky
(1978, 95), Nashwan (1997, 98)
Winner carrying overweight
Tulyar (1952) carried 2lb overweight at
6years: Swain (1998)
Aggressor (1960), Park Top (1969),
Mtoto (1988), Opera House (1993),
Swain (1997) and Daylami (1999)
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|Author:||MORRIS, King George: TONY|
|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Jul 26, 1999|
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