Updated on 07/24/2014 1:18PM

Telescope on improve entering King George

Nikki Sherman
Magician won the Breeders' Cup Turf last year, but hasn't shown the same ability going 1 1/2 miles in Europe.

Telescope, a 4-year-old who never has started in a Group 1 race, is the favorite for one of the most prestigious races in England, the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday at Ascot.

Such is the sway held by trainer Michael Stoute, who has won the King George five times, first in 1981 with Shergar and most recently in 2010 with Harbinger.

Telescope’s race pattern actually mimics that of Harbinger, with both horses owned by Highclere Thoroughbreds. Harbinger also made his Group 1 debut in the King George following a race in May at Chester and a win in the 12-furlong Hardwicke Stakes in June at Ascot. Harbinger won the Hardwicke by 3 1/2 lengths, while Telescope scored by seven.

The strength of that performance, combined with the sense that Telescope has patiently been brought up to elite competition by a trainer known for careful progression, has made him a popular play.

Taghrooda could become the first 3-year-old filly to win the King George since Pawneese in 1976, and she has not lost so far. Tahgrooda won her lone start at 2, then captured the listed Pretty Polly Stakes by six lengths and the Group 1 English Oaks by almost four, beating 16 rivals in the 1 1/2-mile race at Epsom Downs. Trained by John Gosden, Tahgrooda skipped last weekend’s Irish Oaks in favor of the King George, which, like the Oaks, will be contested over 12 furlongs on good going.

Gosden, who won the 2011 King George with Nathaniel, also runs the 3-year-old Eagle Top, a supplemental entry. Eagle Top, a winner twice in three starts, was a sharp course and distance winner last month in the King Edward for 3-year-olds. That race’s runner-up, Adelaide, finished a close second in the Belmont Derby Invitational.

Magician, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, also runs but has not appeared to relish a 12-furlong trip under European, rather than Californian, conditions. Trading Leather finished a distant second to Novellist in the 2013 King George and can improve upon his second to Mukhadram on July 5 in the Eclipse Stakes with the assistance Saturday of pacesetter Leitir Moir. The rabbit will do no favors for Mukhadram, who goes best when running freely and is unproven over 1 1/2 miles.

Flintshire probably struggled over softer going June 29 at Saint-Cloud and is not without some hope, and the field is completed by Romsdal, most recently third in the English Derby.

The King George is the fifth of seven Ascot races, with post time set for 10:50 a.m. Eastern. It is a Win and You're in race for the Breeders' Cup Turf.

◗ The Group 2 York Stakes carries only a fraction of the King George’s prestige, but the race often produces a runner or two for next month’s Arlington Million. A field of eight is set to start in this year’s edition Saturday.