FAVOURITE Postponed has been denied the chance to defend his King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes title at Ascot this Saturday due to illness.

Postponed was the hot favourite ahead of the big race, which has joint record prize money of £1,215,000.

That was based on last year’s stunning performance when jockey Andrea Atzeni steered the then Luca Cumani-trained horse to victory by a nose from Eagle Top in a thrilling finish at the Berkshire track.

But current trainer Roger Varian confirmed Postponed looked well of his best during a workout on Wednesday morning and has now been withdrawn from tomorrow’s meeting.

“We will let the horse recover from this setback before making a plan of where he runs next,” said Varian, who added that the five-year-old’s withdrawal was a “huge blow” to owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid and the team.

“While this setback is only minor, it does rule him out of his assignment at the weekend and he will undertake a brief period of recovery before he returns to full work.

“As is always the case, the interests of the horse must come first. If he is not 100%, the only sensible thing to do is not to run.”

The absence of Postponed means Dartmouth, owned by the Queen, is now the favourite in the race named after her parents.

The Queen, who watched Dartmouth win the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, has only won Saturday’s race once, with Aureole 62 years ago.

But she is unlikely to be attend tomorrow’s meeting due to a prior engagement in Scotland.

Sir Michael Stoute-trained Dartmouth, who will be ridden by Olivier Peslier, was only entered into the lucrative race as a late entry on Monday at a cost of £75,000.

But Stoute has an excellent record in the Group One context and is chasing a record sixth victory.

The progressive four-year-old colt’s trainer said: “Dartmouth has kept improving. He started the year on 101 and has improved with every race (now 119).

“He is very consistent and will run a good, solid race on Saturday.”

Dartmouth gave the Queen a 23rd Royal Ascot success when beating Highland Reel, who re-opposes, in the Hardwicke Stakes on June 18.

Stoute admitted: “I thought he would be in the frame (in the Hardwicke Stakes), but I thought we would win the race with Exosphere.”

Dartmouth and Highland Reel were among seven horses named in the final declaration for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Thursday morning along with Erupt, Second Step, Sir Isaac Newton, Western Hymn and Wings of Desire.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Highland Reel is also well fancied after losing by a head to Dartmouth at Royal Ascot.

Another potential contender, Hawkbill, was ruled out earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Communications at Ascot, has revealed the going on Saturday could be affected by potential showers later in the week.

“The ground is good to firm, good in places at the moment,” he said. “There was some water put on then we will see.

"Saturday has always been a destination raceday, the mid-summer crowning glory of the British Flat racing season.”