Secret State hangs tough to win King George V Stakes for Godolphin
A progressive three-year-old is normally required to win the King George V Stakes and that certainly looks the case with 2022 winner Secret State, who justified joint-favouritism in gutsy fashion on his handicap debut.
The well-bred son of Dubawi brought some strong novice form to the table and his future now lies in Pattern company after he dug deep in the home straight to see off a whole host of unexposed rivals.
Sent off a 4/1 joint-favourite, Secret State was made to work hard for his victory by runner-up Deauville Legend (14/1), who went down by a diminishing head, with Israr (11/2) back in third. Savvy Knight was fourth at 18/1.
Secret State’s success was a third of the week for rider William Buick and a second for Charlie Appleby, who is the first trainer to double up this week.
Appleby said: “Secret State had a nice pitch around there. We had a nice draw and were keen to get out and get a nice pitch. It is one of those races that can be hard work if you are in the second half of the field, so our plan was always to be in the first half. William got him out and got him in a good spot. The pace was steady enough, so you knew you had to be in the right position when they started quickening, and he got first run on them.
“I was confident and, although people around me said ‘you are beat’, this horse will always find – he has done that in all his runs. When he won at Chester, I was very pleased with the way he knuckled down, but when we dropped him back to a mile to get our third run to qualify for the handicap, that is where he impressed me the most. He had the pace for the mile and fought that day, and the form of that race has worked out well.
“I am very pleased. He is a horse going the right way. We could be bold enough to say he might work up into something like the Great Voltigeur, stepping up from handicaps to Pattern company. We might have a look. His profile won’t look out of place making that move and where our ceiling is I wouldn’t like to say yet.
“It is an exciting race to win as well – my first Royal Ascot winner was a King George V – it is a race I always like to target.”
Buick said: “I didn’t expect to be where I was in the race, but Secret State jumped so well, and from that start, you’re not going to take him back.
“In a race like this over a competitive trip, they either stay or they don’t. I was quite close to the pace, but Frankie on Franz Strauss got a breather into us and slowed the pace down. When he got a spin on the rail, I took it. He was in front half a furlong too soon, but he battled really well.
“Once he could feel them coming, he went again. His brother Line Of Duty was the same. They are a great family and this was a great plan by Charlie. This horse has had three runs, so he got into the race today. It is early days for him yet, but he has done nothing but improve and did not run at two. He could make up into a smart type.
“I have been here before [in leading jockey battle] until the last day. It’s great to ride winners at this meeting and I have some great rides for the rest of the week. I just need to keep focused and keep doing the right things and hopefully everything else comes.”
Trainer James Ferguson said of the second: “It’s frustrating. Deauville Legend is a lovely horse and I thought he was given a lovely ride. William [Buick] has just got the nick on us up the inner there. Our horse stayed on well; I think he was still running to the line. He is a lovely horse in the making and I think he’s going to provide his owner [K K Ho] with a lot of fun.
“This was always the plan. You don’t win a handicap at Ascot unless you are going in with what you think is a Group horse. He won very well at Windsor and he’s obviously taken a massive step forward since then.”
3.05pm King George V Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
1 Secret State (Godolphin) Charlie Appleby 3-9-06 William Buick 4/1JF
2 Deauville Legend (K K Ho) James Ferguson 3-9-02 Daniel Muscutt 14/1
3 Israr (Shadwell Estate Co Ltd) John & Thady Gosden 3-9-08 Jim Crowley 11/2
4 Savvy Knight (Julian Hui) Sean Woods 3-9-03 James Doyle 18/1
19 ran 4/1JF Post Impressionist (15th)
Charlie Appleby – 13th Royal Ascot winner
William Buick – 31st Royal Ascot winner