07/24/2004 12:00AM

Doyen dominates; Hard Buck 2nd


Doyen confirmed his class and justified his 11-10 favoritism with a devastating three-length victory over the gallant Hard Buck in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

A 4-year-old son of Sadler's Wells owned by Godolphin, Doyen cruised to the lead at the quarter pole and was hand ridden to the line by Frankie Dettori, who was riding his fourth King George winner. Doyen gave trainer Saeed bin Suroor his fifth triumph in Ascot's midsummer Group 1 event.

Gary Stevens had the 33-1 Hard Buck in perfect position throughout the 1 1/2-mile race, which was worth $1,382,400. Tracking the pace set by the Godolphin pacemaker Lunar Sovereign - winner of last year's Man o' War - Hard Buck appeared headed for the lead as Lunar Sovereign gave way entering the 2 1/2-furlong stretch. But no sooner had Hard Buck made his move than Dettori made his aboard Doyen, at which point the issue became academic.

Hard Buck battled on to save second by a head over Godolphin's second string, Sulamani, the 3 1/2-length runner-up to the runaway Alamshar in last year's King George. Gamut was fourth with the French filly Vallee Enchantee fifth. Doyen's winning time on good to firm ground was 2:33.18, a rather surprising 6.65 seconds off the track mark he set on June 19 when winning the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.

Doyen is now perfectly placed for any of the big autumn races in which Godolphin chooses to run him. Their racing manager, Simon Crisford, mentioned the Irish Champion Stakes, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Breeders' Cup Turf, and the Japan Cup as possibilities. Doyen is the even-money favorite for the Arc with Ladbrokes, 3-2 with William Hill, and 2-1 with Coral.

Trainer Ken McPeek was delighted with Hard Buck's performance, which earned the Brazilian-bred son of Spend a Buck $304,128.

"He is a fantastic horse and he proved it today," McPeek was quoted as saying in the Racing Post. "I'm proud of him. He's a horse that deserves to be recognized.

"You may see him again in Europe," the trainer added. "We need to take him back home, regroup, and see how he comes out of the race physically. We may try the Arc. It's under consideration."