sport

Taghrooda heads to King George

Taghrooda is close to disputing second-favouritism behind Telescope for next Saturday's King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot after her unexpected withdrawal from this weekend's Darley Irish Oaks.

John Gosden's filly was odds-on to make it a Classic double after her victory in the Investec Oaks, but owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum has chosen to rely solely upon his Epsom runner-up Tarfasha.

News of the owner's adventurous plan was revealed to Press Association Sport by his racing manager Angus Gold.

Gold said: "Sheikh Hamdan has now decided that he would like to run Taghrooda in the King George at Ascot and therefore she will not be declared for the Irish Oaks. Tarfasha will be declared for the Irish Oaks.

"Taghrooda will be retired to stud at the end of this year and Sheikh Hamdan thought he would like to take his chance in the big one, she's in good form and she gets plenty of weight from the older horses.

"It was tempting to go to Ireland and try to win another Oaks, but we have a filly there and it's possibly not the strongest King George ever and Sheikh Hamdan was keen to give her a chance there."

The owner sportingly decided to run his 2005 Oaks winner Eswarah in the King George held at Newbury, but she was only eighth behind Azamour.

Taghrooda's odds for the midsummer highlight, though, tumbled straight away and continued to fall and bookmaker Sky Bet reacted to the news by cutting Taghrooda to 4.

Sheikh Hamdan already has a live King George contender in the Eclipse winner Mukhadram, while Gosden is not short on options himself and a decision on whether Eagle Top will join his stablemate will not be made until Monday morning.

The lightly-raced colt was an impressive winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at the Royal meeting.

A return to Berkshire has been mooted but it will cost owner Lady Bamford 75,000 to put the three-year-old in the mid-summer highlight.

The son of Pivotal also holds entries in the Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes and the Juddmonte International Stakes.

Hugo Lascelles, Lady Bamford's racing manager, said: "No decision over whether he runs in the King George will be made until Monday morning."

Heading the betting for the King George at around 7-4 is Sir Michael Stoute's Telescope after his impressive win at Royal Ascot, and Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, admits the decision to run Taghrooda makes his task harder.

"It's exciting and adds more spice to the race, I don't think any of us saw it coming," he told At The Races.

"I thought she was a shoo-in for the Irish Oaks and having a horse like Telescope in the King George, your first reaction is 'ouch'.

"I'm delighted it will make the race spicier, but a little concerned as she's a really good filly. It would probably only happen in this country that a three-year-old filly takes on the older colts.

"I thought it was an awesome performance in the Oaks, she's a magnificent-looking filly and I'm sure this has been carefully thought out."