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Novellist comes of age in the Betfair King George

27 Jul 2013

He was already a dual Group 1 winner, but no one could have imagined that he would put up such a devastating performance to win the £1m Betfair King George by five lengths and in the process smash the track record.

Novellist with Johnny Murtagh on board and trainer Andreas Wohler by his side return in triumph after the Betfair King George. Image courtesy of racingfotos.com.

No German-trained horse had won the King George in more than 60 years since the race was created in 1951 until Danedream emerged triumphant last year.

Now Germany has claimed Britain’s mid-summer highlight for a second year running, with Novellist putting up a sensational performance this afternoon to smash the Ascot mile and a half track record and come home five lengths in front of his nearerst pursuer, the Irish Derby winner, Trading Leather.

Eight runners went to post in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by Betfair) and a fast time was on the cards as soon as Ektihaam, closely followed by fellow front-runner Universal, set a strong pace.

Ektihaam folded three furlongs out and Universal was briefly in front, but was soon pressed by Novellist and Trading Leather.

Two furlongs out Novellist went on and immediately had his rivals in trouble, stretching clear in the manner of a real star.

Trading Leather, who was quite free early on, ran well to hold second from the staying on Hillstar, who more than recovered the £75,000 supplementary entry fee that his connections had to pay to put him in the race on Monday.

Cirrus des Aigles, the world’s highest-rated turf horse, had finished over four lengths behind Novellist when making his seasonal reapperance in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

Reoprted to be in the form of his life, he was sent off the 6-4 favourite to turn that form around, but was beaten over eight lengths in fourth.

He blew hard after the race and clearly was still not at peak fitness, while the fast ground was also not in his favour.

The victorious trainer, Andreas Wohler, said: "To win like that is unbelievable but even more so to do it in a record time.

"The hardest thing for Johnny was pulling the horse up after the race! We couldn’t have said beforehand that he would have won that easily.

"It’s a huge prize to win – it’s the first time the older horses take on the three-year-olds and we have beaten the best three-year-olds easily.

"I was worried about how confident Johnny was before the race because I thought he shouldn’t be thinking it was too easy but he rode the horse as if he’d ridden him 20 times before.

"We were going to use Ryan Moore before Hillstar was supplemented and then looked at William Buick, because he rode the horse last year.

"But he couldn’t commit because he didn’t know if he would have to go to York so I rang Johnny, who has ridden for me a long time ago.

"I was quite confident because the horse was really well coming here and that gave me confidence to go for this race.

"At first they didn’t go too fast today and then the pace quickened and quickened but my horse still cruised.

"I started walking down the steps a furlong before the winning post.

"His main target now is the Arc and he will have one race beforehand.

"The two options are the Prix Foy and Grosser Preis von Baden and it’s more likely we’d go for the Grosser Preis.

"He’s won a Group race in Germany and a Group 1 in Italy last year but to make a stallion he needs more international form so we went to Saint-Cloud and then on to here.

"It’s the strength of our German horses that they mature late and improve when stepped up in distance.

"I was 24 when my father died in 1986 and I had to take over the licence earlier than I was expecting and the best horse I had before was Lomitas, who was exceptional, but this horse is exceptional as well."