Royal Ascot is over for another year. A strange meeting, a bit like this year’s Cheltenham Festival, it was a slow burner. The first two days took place under grey skies and torrential rain. There were no highlights off the track, and in all honesty, there weren’t many of them on the track either.
Blue Points to Win
On Tuesday Blue Point landed the King Stand Stakes for the second year running, with old rival Battaash having to settle for the runner-up position also for the second year running. For a few strides it looked like Battaash was coming with a winning run, as he quickened up to challenge Blue Point a furlong out. He came up against a tough opponent though, as Blue Point wasn’t to be headed and found plenty to assert close to home.
Crystal Sparkles in Rain
The one sunny moment of Day 2 was the win of Crystal Ocean in the Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes. Last year’s Hardwicke Stakes winner was having his fourth start in Group 1 company, and a win was long overdue, given how well he had run on the other occasions when he raced in the highest class. The drop back to 1m 2f wasn’t an issue as wasn’t the soft ground, it brought his stamina into play.
The sun finally came out on Thursday and the meeting really caught fire. It was that man, Frankie Dettori, who lit the fuse by winning the first four races on Day 3. By race 5, the bookies had run for cover as the real possibility of Frankie going through the card became clear.
When Turgenev went three lengths clear of his field in the Britannia Handicap the script looked written. Sadly, for Frankie backers, Harry Bentley on Biometric hadn’t read the script, and gradually wore the leader down in the final few yards to spoil the party.
The last of Frankie’s four winners was on Stradivarius, who won his second successive Gold Cup, as he beat one of the best fields he’s faced in the staying division. What a great horse he is. Not the biggest in size, but the biggest heart at the finish of a race. The ‘Million Pound’ stayer bonus that he won last year looks to be on again.
Hayley Says Thanks
It was a long time coming. In 1997 Gaye Kellaway became the first woman to ride a winner at Royal Ascot. Thirty-two years later, and Hayley Turner got women jockeys back on the scoreboard. Under a power backed ride, Thanks Be held on to win the Sandringham Stakes Handicap at 33/1. It was also a first Royal Ascot winner for trainer Charlie Fellowes.
However, there was a sting in the tail, as Hayley received a nine-day ban and a fine of £1,600 for excessive use of the whip inside the final one & half furlongs contest.
Not even that postscript can take away from Hayley’s achievement and, of course, it put horse racing on the front page of the newspapers, as well as the back.
We all know about the success of the sire Galileo. On Saturday it was the turn of Sharmadal to shine, as three of his progenies won on the final day of Royal Ascot.
Pinatubo Explodes In Chesham
The first of the stallion’s winners came with the juvenile Pinatubo in the 7f Chesham Stakes. The colt broke the course record, when storming away from his field, inside the final furlong, beating the strongly fancied Lope Y Fernandez by almost four lengths.
Blue Point Does It Again
The decision to bring Blue Point out so quickly after his win in the King Stand Stakes paid off. The 5-year-old became the first horse since Choisir in 2003 to win the King Stand Stakes & Diamond Jubilee in the same year. In some ways it could be argued that Blue Point’s win was even better than Choisir’s, as the King Stand was a Group 2 race back in 2003.
Sent-off the 6/4 favourite he got a great lead into the race from Kachy. He was still cantering when jockey James Doyle pushed the horse into the lead a furlong out, and his mount quickened clear of his rivals. It looked he would win by five lengths or more, but it got very anxious for favourite backers in the final 50yds, as Dream Of Dreams came out of the pack to throw down a big challenge. However, Blue Point just prevailed by a diminishing head at the line. He’s a classy sprinter whose pulled-off a notable double.
Byron’s Poetry in Motion
Shamardal’s third winner came courtesy of Cape Byron in the Wokingham Handicap. The 5-year-old had won the valuable 7f Victoria Cup here last month. The drop-back to a stiff 6f looked likely to suit the gelding, and so it proved. Top-weight didn’t hold him back as he became only the second horse since 1997, carrying more than 9-9, to win this historic handicap.
He’s got a Group 1 July Cup entry and could well line-up against Blue Point at Newmarket next month. That race is shaping-up into a potential cracker.
I won’t writing next Monday’s EyeCatcher blog post as I will be enjoying a week away in Rhodes. After recent weeks, it was time for a break.
See you all in two weeks.