THERE have been some epic battles in Ascots King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (3.40pm) over the years.
In 2015, Postponed held on by a nose from Eagle Top in a thrilling finish, but it was the 1975 renewal that truly went down in Ascot folklore.
Often referred to as the Race of the Century, the Derby winner Grundy managed to see off the previous years St Leger hero Bustino in a pulsating finish.
The beauty of the QIPCO-sponsored King George is that it pits the best older middle distance horses against the fresh upstarts from the Classic generation.
And the roll of honour reads like a whos who of the finest equine specimens ever to grace the turf.
Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Dahlia, The Minstrel, Troy, Shergar, Dancing Brave, Lammtarra, Montjeu, Galileo, Enable; the list goes on and on.
With prize money of £1.25million, the King George is now the third most valuable race of the year in Britain and tomorrows contest promises to be as fascinating as ever.
Sir Michael Stoute, along with Dick Hern and Saeed bin Suroor, has won this prize a record five times, and he has a great chance of pulling clear with a sixth win as he saddles the top two in the betting.
This is Stoutes specialist subject. He has shown time and time again how patience can be rewarded with these middle distance horses.
The maestro from Barbados last tasted King George success in 2010 when Harbinger bounded clear by an incredible 11 lengths under Olivier Peslier.
Its highly unlikely well see such a dominant performance tomorrow, but I think POETS WORD can give this huge cricket fan the six hes been looking for.
The son of Poets Voice caused one of the biggest shocks of the Royal meeting last month when defeating long odds-on favourite CRACKSMAN in the Prince Of Waless Stakes.
Youd have to say that Cracksman underperformed that day, although it would be very hard to play down the manner in which Poets Word put the race to bed.
Now five years old, he is clearly improving and that should come as no surprise for a horse housed at Freemason Lodge.
James Doyle was in the saddle for the last win and he maintains the partnership in confident mood following his world class display at the Curragh last Saturday.
There is a small worry about the step up to 1m4f, although he has won over the distance before and he may just have a few too many gears for some of these in the closing stages.
Undoubtedly the biggest threat to Poets Words chances of back-to-back Group Ones comes from just a few stable doors away.
CRYSTAL OCEAN has won all three starts as a four-year-old and was beaten less than a length in last Septembers St Leger.
He wasnt overly impressive in the Hardwicke Stakes last time, but he still got the job done and stamina is his strong suit.
William Buick takes the ride and there really shouldnt be a lot between the two Stoute runners at the line.
I expect them to finish first and second and Im hoping Poets Word can execute that burst of speed to see off his stablemate.
Yesterdays final declarations were a little surprising to say the least.
Not only was Kew Gardens ruled out because of a bad scope, Cracksman was also declared due to possible thunderstorms in the Ascot area.
Its a very tricky one, as there would need to be a lot of rain for him to run, while the storms could miss the area.
I was ready to put the improving Kew Gardens in as my number three, due to the big weight-for-age allowance, so in his place Ill have to go for Cracksman on the basis that the rain arrives.
The son of Frankel is a very classy horse and even though hes been disappointing on his last two starts, he could bounce back over 1m4f.
John Gosden wouldnt be running him unless he was ready and if he can return to the form of his Champion Stakes victory, then he will be very hard to beat.
There are question marks over all the others, although Salouen could offer some each-way value at 33/1 on the back of his close second to Cracksman in the Coronation Cup two starts ago.
BILL ESDAILES KING GEORGE 1-2-3
- Poets Word
- Crystal Ocean