07/26/2014 1:27PM

Taghrooda impresses in King George Stakes


Taghrooda made history Saturday at Ascot, becoming only the third 3-year-old filly to win the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the race’s 63-year history.

Taghrooda beat both males and older rivals in the $1,807,997 King George, and she beat them stylishly. Held up seventh of eight for much of the 1 1/2-mile race by jockey Paul Hanagan, Taghrooda, begging to be turned loose, began progressing with about three furlongs left to run, found her best stride inside the final quarter-mile, and blasted past Mukhadram and the favored Telescope to win the King George by three lengths.

Taghrooda, trained by John Gosden for Hamdan al Maktoum, won for the fourth time in four starts and completed an excellent double, having powerfully captured the English Oaks in her most recent start. Gosden, winning his second King George, said Taghrooda is among the best fillies he ever has trained.

“She’s right up there and would be the best filly I’ve had over a mile and a half,” Gosden said. “I thought those older horses would be hard to pass, but she really showed her class and stamina.”

Pacesetter Leitir Moir opened a big lead and set a strong pace in the King George, which was contested over a course just on the soft side of good following late-week rain. Mukhadram raced close to the pace, and Telescope, coming from midpack, was the first to commit with a full-on move with more than a quarter-mile to run. Mukhadram is a Group 1 winner, Telescope an improving and highly regarded Michael Stoute-trained 4-year-old, but neither proved any match for Taghrooda, who was getting a 15-pound break in the weights (133-118) due to her age and sex.

Taghrooda was timed in a strong 2:28.13 for the fairly testing 1 1/2 miles. Telescope edged Mukhadram by a nose for the place, and they were followed by another Gosden runner, Eagle Top, who checked in another 1 3/4 lengths back in fourth. Then came Trading Leather, a disappointing Magician, English Derby third-place finisher Romsdal, and Leitir Moir.

Taghrooda, bred by Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Co. Ltd., is by Sea the Stars and is the first foal produced by the Sadler’s Wells mare Ezima. Gosden and Sheikh Hamdan made a wise choice to skip last weekend’s Irish Oaks – a race to which Taghrooda initially had been pointed after her English Oaks win – in favor of the King George. Hanagan also chose well, winding up aboard Taghrooda on Saturday rather than Mukhadram, another Sheikh Hamdan runner whom he has regularly ridden in the past.

Gosden said Taghrooda could race next in the Yorkshire Oaks on Aug. 21 at York. She is a possible runner later this season in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and is expected to be retired from racing at the end of her 3-year-old campaign.

The King George was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race for the BC Turf, but Taghrooda seems very unlikely to contest the race."

Sheikhzayedroad wins York Stakes

At York on Saturday, Sheikhzayedroad won the Group 2 York Stakes by a neck over the filly Secret Gesture.

The York often produces runners for the Arlington Million in August, but the winner, trained by David Simcock, has as his North American objective later this year the Canadian International at Woodbine. A 5-year-old by Dubawi, he won for the seventh time in 20 starts, just nipping a game Secret Gesture, who had been passed by Windhoek but stayed on gamely to narrowly miss.