When it comes to high-end racehorses, it could be said that ability makes champions, but consistency makes greats. We may be seeing an example of that with new sprint sensation Lethal Force, whose win in the July Cup gave the Clive Cox team a prized Group 1 double. He's now Timeform-rated 130, a rarity in itself among British sprinters during recent years, while his uncomplicated manner of success both at Newmarket and in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes suggest that Lethal Force is going to prove more reliable than most sprinters. You'd certainly struggle to back against him at the moment, at least over six furlongs.
Consistency is also the theme running through the next Group 1 on these shores, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. It certainly applies to current favourite St Nicholas Abbey who, if you discount a couple of attempts at the Arc, hasn't been out of the first three in any race since his three-year-old days. This year, he has performed to his best on our figures in winning both the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Coronation Cup. This 12-furlong trip is ideal for St Nicholas Abbey and he's been third in the last two renewals of this race, though with his limitations rather exposed by his consistency current odds of around 3.211/5 make only limited appeal.
A better option at current prices is the horse that defeated St Nicholas Abbey in the 2012 Sheema Classic, Cirrus des Aigles. The French champion might have flopped on his reappearance in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, but considering he habitually comes on for his first run (and had reportedly suffered a fetlock injury over the winter) that's excusable. There's also the small matter of his previous consistency: after holding off St Nicholas Abbey in Dubai, Cirrus des Aigles ran to a Timeform figure in advance of 130 on three of his four subsequent starts, including when giving Frankel the race of his life in the Champion Stakes. The winner of that race in 2011, Cirrus des Aigles evidently saves some of his best form for Ascot and is proven over the trip. It's said that he is ideally suited by softer ground, but conditions were on the firm side for his Champion Stakes win and, with him being 7 lb clear of anything else on Timeform ratings, it's difficult to justify Cirrus des Aigles not being favourite.
The other two currently trading at single-figure odds are impressive Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Novellist and Irish Derby hero Trading Leather. Although the recipient of a three-year-old allowance, the second-named has a bit to prove on form, the feeling being his success at the Curragh isn't all it's cracked up to be. Novellist's win at Saint-Cloud proves he's returned as good as ever, and he's another to whom consistency comes easily. With that said, as with Trading Leather the concern over Novellist is class; specifically, whether he has as much as either of St Nicholas Abbey or Cirrus des Aigles.
The pick of the horses at a slightly bigger price is the Aidan O'Brien trained Mars, last seen when running a creditable fourth to Al Kazeem in the Eclipse. Highly tried all along, Mars hasn't yet been allowed to reveal the full extent of his ability, trouble in running often compromising his effort. He was essentially held when bumped inside the final furlong at Sandown, though the longer trip here should suit this Galileo colt and, with him having just five starts to his name, it would be unwise to rule out further improvement. Current prices suggest he's by no means a certain starter, but anything north of 20.019/1 on the day would represent decent value.
With so many of the runners in the King George having consistency in common, we're going to have to find other criteria on which to separate them. How about superior ability, outstanding course form and proven stamina? Cirrus des Aigles has all three. There is of course the uncomfortable truth of his reappearance effort and advancing years, but he's been consistent in his ordinary returns to action throughout his career and there's no real reason to believe it's part of a bigger slide. Instead, revel in the fact that you can back the horse rated by Timeform as the best in training, and back Cirrus des Aigles to bounce back at Ascot. Vive la France!
Back Cirrus des Aigles to win the King George VI Stakes