LONDON — Aidan O’Brien is gambling that stud flop George Washington will recapture last year’s standout form in his return to racing on the opening day of Royal Ascot.
Rated the top 3-year-old of 2006, the 4-year-old stallion will run in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday after having failed at the Coolmore Stud farm.
Although a group of top Australian horses, jockeys and trainers will be at the prestigious meet attended by Queen Elizabeth II, the return of George Washington has been making the biggest headlines.
Bred in the United States by Gretchen and Roy Jackson, owners of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, George Washington had a stellar season before injury prompted an early retirement to stud.
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However, George Washington, who won the English 2,000 Guineas and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, has fertility problems. With no prospect of siring any offspring, George Washington returns to the track.
O’Brien knows that stallions who return to racing after a spell at stud can be temperamental, and the Irish-based trainer said he did not rush the thoroughbred back into training.
“I think he’s been back about three months,” O’Brien said. “He behaves very well back among the rest, but it was about a month before we introduced him back in.
“He’s good and at the moment we are very happy. So far he hasn’t shown any signs of temperament. He seems to be behaving himself. Hopefully everything goes well on the day and we are looking forward to seeing him run.”
George Washington finished sixth behind Invasor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in his final race as a 3-year-old, but is an 11-10 favorite Tuesday against seven rivals over a straight mile.
They challengers include the filly Red Evie, who won the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in her first race of the season, and Cesare, a colt who won the Royal Hunt Cup at last year’s Royal Ascot meet.
“She has timed it very well,” Red Evie trainer Michael Bell said. “She’s in very good form and it will be interesting to see how she gets on. If George Washington reproduces what he did at Ascot last year, he’s going to be very hard to beat. But it’s a bit of an ’if’ and I hope it’s a big ’if’.”
A feature of Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs will be the four Australian thoroughbreds in a provisional field of 21.
One of them is last year’s winner, Takeover Target, trained by Joe Janiak at Coffs Harbour and ridden by Jay Ford. Bentley Biscuit, trained by Gai Waterhouse, Miss Andretti (Lee Freedman) and Magnus (Peter Moody) are also from Down Under.
This year’s 2,000 Guineas winner as a 25-1 shot, Cockney Rebel is also in action Tuesday in the St. James Palace Stakes, as is Dutch Art, who finished third behind him at Newmarket.
A top quality field of seven in Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’ Stakes includes Red Rocks, the winner from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, and Sir Percy, the winner of the English Derby.