Dubai: Former UAE-based jockey Craig Williams chases a personal milestone when he rides Dunaden in Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Britain’s second richest flat race after the Epsom Derby.
Williams, who has ridden 34 Group One winners in his native Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE, is seeking his first in Great Britain.
Dunaden is the 6/1 fourth favourite to win the Ascot showpiece, Britain’s most prestigious open-age race, behind St Nicholas Abbey (11/4), Nathaniel (3), and Sea Moon (3).
Williams will partner the French-trained Dunaden for the third time following successes in the Ggeelong Cup (G3) and the Hong Kong Vase (G1) last year.
The 34-year-old enhanced his reputation as one of Australia’s best riders when he rode a masterful race aboard outsider Ortensia to win the Al Quoz Sprint (G2) at Meydan in March. A multiple champion in Australia, he was stable jockey to John Sadler during the 2001-2002 UAE racing season.
Dunaden, who won a thrilling renewal of the Melbourne Cup (G1) last season, is among a star cast of 12 horses who will vie for the £1 million purse.
Among them are last year’s winner Nathaniel, recently successful in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (G1), dual Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey and Hardwicke Stakes winner Sea Moon.
Commenting on his prospects aboard the Mikel Delzangles-trained challenger who finished second behind Sea Moon on his last start at Royal Ascot, Williams said: “I spoke to [racing manager] David Redvers this morning and I will speak to Mikel. They tell me the horse is in good order. When the field’s out, we can have a look and see how we think the race is going to be run.
“On face value, Dunaden is in great form. He just needs a little bit of galloping room and a little bit of luck in the race to see where he really figures. It looks like being a good race for him.”
Japanese Derby winner Deep Brillante is the only three-year-old in the race while last year’s Arc de Triomphe winner Danedream adds to the race’s international flavour.
Cologne-based trainer Peter Schiergen confirmed Danedream will be ridden by stable jockey Andrasch Starke.
“She’s very well and I’m happy with her,” he said. “We have no real explanation for her poor run in France last time [when she was last of four in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud], but she seems in perfect condition now, just as she was before she won the Arc.
“She goes on any ground, so we are not worried about the going.”
The going at Ascot remains soft and good to soft with Clerk of the course Chris Stickels, saying: “We’ve had 3mm today [Monday] and the forecast is still unsettled. Hopefully, we’ve got a dry day tomorrow, but there’s a chance of rain on Wednesday with heavier bursts of rain on Thursday.
“Friday and Saturday are both wettish.
“The rain today hasn’t deteriorated the course and it’s still soft on the round course and good to soft on the straight course.”
Many winners of the King George subsequently compete in the Arc while a number go on to have a successful career at stud. The race became part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series in 2011 and the winner now earns an automatic invitation to compete in the same year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf.