Queen Elizabeth is no two-horse race as several leading jockeys eye the prize

The banter has been anything but banal, the build-up has been brilliant — bring on the race.

For so long the Group 1 $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday had been billed as a “match race” between Addeybb and Verry Elleegant.

But this is not just a two-horse race anymore. It’s the “Fab Four” now as Sir Dragonet’s got his admirers, so does Mugatoo.

There are another three starters in the field – Think It Over, Mo’unga and Dalasan are legitimate Group 1 horses – but the betting suggests there are two “divisions” in this race.

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English visitor Addeybb is back to defend his Queen Elizabeth Stakes crown. Photo: Dan Himbrechts/AAP ImageSource:AAP

Addeybb was outstanding winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes by nearly three lengths last year and has a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head clashes with Verry Elleegant.

But Verry Elleegant seems to have gone to a new level this season with five Group 1 wins already including her defeat of Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes.

English champ Addeybb doesn’t have his preferred wet track racing surface, either, on Saturday and suddenly the long-time Queen Elizabeth Stakes favourite has been displaced at the top of betting and looks vulnerable.

His rider, “Aussie Tom” Marquand remains upbeat that Addeybb can go back-to-back.

“I think within racing and all sports we are guilty of it, as soon as one person beats another we instantly write the other off,” Marquand said.

“But realistically going into the Ranvet everyone was saying Verry Elleegant would struggle to beat Addeybb.”

Marquand felt Addeybb might have been “ring rusty” in the Ranvet which was the gelding’s first race this year.

“Yes, definitely, he had been off the track since October,’’ Marquand replied when asked if the long lay-off might have contributed to Addeybb’s Ranvet loss.

“We can certainly give him the benefit of the doubt and I’m looking forward to getting back on him Saturday.”

Verry Elleegant got one back on Addeybb with victory in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill Gardens. Photo Jason McCawley/Getty Images for the Australian Turf ClubSource:Getty Images

Addeybb will wear blinkers for the first time when he lines up against seven rivals in Saturday’s big race.

“It’s only a small field but that eliminates bad luck in a way,” he said.

“It’s pretty obvious what we will do on Addeybb, we will go out and ride him according to the race. We don’t have to come with any set tactics.”

Marquand said he has enjoyed the pressure and hype that has made the Queen Elizabeth Stakes a “must-see” event.

“It is great to be involved in races like this,” Marquand said.

“These big races don’t come around often but when you do you have got to try and make the most of it.”

Pressure doesn’t seem to bother Marquand. It’s the same for his three main rivals, James McDonald (Verry Elleegant), Glen Boss (Sir Dragonet) and Hugh Bowman (Mugatoo), they thrive when the spotlight is focused on them.

McDonald conceded the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is not a match race anymore.

“It has been billed as a two-horse race but it is far from that,” McDonald said.

“Sir Dragonet is in the field, so has Mugatoo, it is going to be some race. We had a lot of fun with Nature Strip and Eduardo last week and now we can do it all again this week.”

McDonald, who leads the coveted Nathan Berry Medal after winning two Group 1 races on Day One of the Championships including Nature Strip in the TJ Smith Stakes, said Verry Elleegant is “going every bit as good as she ever has”.

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes is shaping as the ‘Race Of The Year’ and top jockeys Tom Marquand, High Bowman, James McDonald and Glen Boss give their thoughts on how it will play…

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes is shaping as the ‘Race Of The Year’ and top jockeys Tom Marquand, High Bowman, James McDonald and Glen Boss give their thoughts on how it will play out.

“There are not many that come out on top when there is a dogfight,” McDonald said of the mare’s fierce determination and will-to-win.

“She very rarely gets beaten in those scenarios. Addeybb did out-tough her one day in the Ranvet Stakes last year but she got one back on him the other day.

“We are confident because she has had such a good preparation. She has had the three weeks between runs which I’m really wrapped about.

“She didn’t got too the Tancred Stakes this year so it is going to take a very good Addeybb to beat her.”

Even the likelihood of a firm track doesn’t faze McDonald.

“What ever gets thrown up at us doesn’t bother me but I’m confident the firmer the track the better chance I’ve got,” McDonald said.

Boss is also bullish about the chances of Sir Dragonet on a good track after the imported stayer toyed with his rivals in the Tancred Stakes last start.

Sir Dragonet had taken a while to regain top form this autumn but Boss and trainer Ciaron Maher are adamant the Cox Plate winner has found his groove in time for Saturday’s big clash.

“I have been looking forward to this race since he won the Tancred,” Boss said.

Sir Dragonet found his top form with a brilliant win in the Tancred Stakes at Rosehill last start. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“This is what you want to be doing, it is exciting. They are all turning up in the right form, too.

“The weather will have a big say on the outcome of this race. A good track is a big plus for me.

“Sir Dragonet ran on a ‘firmish’ deck the other day and he was very good so it enhances my prospects.”

Boss said Sir Dragonet has continued to work well on the track since his Tancred win and is peaking for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

“My horse has done super,” Boss said. “I galloped him on Tuesday and he has come on again.

“He’s a funny horse, when he is super fit he does really well in the barn and eats more. He just needs to be rock-hard fit, he is one of those athletes that really thrive on it when they are at their peak.

“But from all reports Addeybb needed the run the other day. I was talking to Tommy (Marquand) after the race and he said his horse will improve.

All Star Mile winner Mugatoo will appreciate the step up to 2000m for the first time this preparation. Photo: George Salpigtidis/Racing Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“Verry Elleegant is in great form and we know what Mugatoo can do on his day. Even Think It Over is not out of this race – they are all flying, all meeting at a great distance on a great track. I can’t wait.”:

Mugatoo won the All Star Mile then ran fourth at favourite in the Doncaster Mile last week.

Bowman admitted he was disappointed in Mugatoo’s run but feels getting out to 2000m might be what his horse needs.

“Mugatoo ran below expectations in the Doncaster, I won’t beat around the bush there, but if he can bounce off that and get back to the form he showed winning the All Star Mile a month ago he will make his presence felt,” Bowman said.

“He has probably got to run the race of his life but he has had the preparation to do it. He is only fourth up and he is yet to run beyond a mile.

“Sir Dragonet is obviously a Cox Plate winner but you could make a case that Mugatoo was unlucky not to win that himself when he had no luck.

“The two are obviously Verry Elleegant and Addeybb and I think if they bring their best it will be hard to beat them but it is a horse race and anything can happen.

“It is a very good race, high quality, and Mutagoo deserves his place in the line-up.”

The time for talking is over. The Queen Elizabeth Stakes is due to start at 3.50pm on Saturday.

For months, this race has been debated and analysed. It will take a tick over two minutes to run. It will be worth the wait.

Originally published asThe big four primed for Queen Elizabeth showdown

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