Royal Ascot winner for QEII
The three-year-old filly Estimate ran out a five-length winner of the two-mile Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot on Friday to give Queen Elizabeth II her 21st Royal Ascot success, a sequence started in her Coronation year, 1953, by Choir Boy in the Royal Hunt Cup.
The daughter of Monsun belied her inexperience - today was only her third race - to go one better than her Sir Michael Stoute stablemate Carlton House, second in Wednesday’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, to provide a Royal winner at the Royal Meeting.
Estimate has a stamina-packed pedigree and strode clear in the closing stages of the two-mile Group 3 contest to beat the Aidan O'Brien-trained Athens by five lengths.
“We tried to do it with Carlton House and we got beaten fair and square,” said Stoute, referring to Wednesday's Prince of Wales's Stakes runner-up. “But it’s very nice to come to this meeting with runners for this owner with some sort of chance, particularly in Jubilee year. The Queen deserves the success, she contributes so much to racing, and I’m sure the whole country will have appreciated the victory. And for me it’s a great honour.”
Estimate won her maiden at Salisbury on her only other run this year. “She won very nicely there,” added Stoute, “and I thought then she could be a Vase filly. She has improved in her work since and is a very nice stayer in the making, a big rangy individual. We always thought she’d get this trip - she’s a half-sister to a Gold Cup winner [Enzeli].”
Estimate stated 3/1 favourite, likely on the strength of her ownership. “On her form I’d have thought she should have been about sixth favourite,” said Stoute. The filly was the second winner of the week for the Queen, after Michael Bell-trained Set To Music at Warwick on Monday.
In the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year in 1977, her filly Dunfermline won the St Leger, but Estimate is unlikely to be asked to emulate her on the Diamond anniversary. “We’ll see how she progresses,” added Stoute, “but at this stage I shouldn’t think so.”
Estimate joined the Queen’s racing string, around 40-strong, as part of an exchange with her breeder the Aga Khan. “The mating that produced her was one that suited both sides after we sat down and consulted,” said The Queen’s racing and bloodstock adviser John Warren, “and we hope that she’ll make a lovely Royal broodmare in the future. This is a thrilling day for us all.”
The Duke of Edinburgh was always scheduled to present the Queen’s Vase trophy to the winning owner and today is thought to be the first time that he has handed a trophy to his wife at her meeting.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien was happy to fill the runner-up spot with Athens after the colt finished five lengths behind the Queen’s winner Estimate.
“For once I’m delighted to be second,” said O’Brien. “I’m delighted for the Queen. I think two miles might have just been too far for Athens and he is a nice horse. He could be one for the St Leger, that’s a possibility.”
Third-placed Ed De Gas, carrying the colours of Australian owner Richard Pegum, is another possible for Doncaster.
“We’ll put him in the Leger but he won’t race a lot this year,” said trainer Rae Guest. “He’s still green and only a baby. He likes soft ground and is a really nice stayer and could be one for the Melbourne Cup next year.”
Henry Cecil trained a one-two in the King Edward VII Stakes when Thomas Chippendale (Johnny Murtagh), owned by Sir Robert Ogden, beat Noble Mission (Tom Queally).
The winner, who beat his stablemate by half a length, with Derby fourth Thought Worthy a neck back in third, was bought by Sir Robert for 375,000gns as a yearling. Following today’s race he was given a quote of 14/1 for the Ladbrokes St Leger by that race’s sponsor, but only 8/1 by Paddy Power.
Sir Henry said of the winner: “He looks as if he stays well and he could be a horse for Doncaster. I thought both horses deserved to run and both were going into the race with a chance. The Derby third [Astrology, who finished fourth today] is a good horse but had a hard race at Epsom and was worth taking on.
“It’s nice for Sir Robert to have winner because he puts a lot into racing, and while my two runners were owned by different owners - and I hate one beating the other - they both ran very well.
“Time will tell whether Noble Mission is a St Leger horse. He has run a very good race and is an improving horse. They are both improving and the winner is still a big baby - he didn’t winter very well and he was a bad eater, so he wasn’t ready for the Derby. Everything is coming good now and he is on the upgrade.
“Sir Robert wanted a top jockey and as Johnny Murtagh was available we asked him to take the ride. I’m delighted he rode the horse so well. Tom said his horse was just run out of it by the winner, but I think they will both improve.
“I’m looking forward to Thomas Chippendale staying in training as a four-year-old. I need some good four-year-olds and I think it’s good for the breed to race at four when they are more mature. They have such an advantage against three-year-olds up to races like the King George.”
Of his most famous four-year-old, Frankel, he said: “It’s known he lost a shoe when winning the Queen Anne [on Tuesday] and he was led out yesterday for a pick of grass and is fine. We’ll feel our way with him, but I think it’s more likely he will go to Goodwood [for the Sussex Stakes] and then York [for the Juddmonte International] which is so important to him. We’re all looking forward to him running over ten furlongs, and the way he gets a mile at Ascot suggests he will get further.”
There was no Irish winner on Friday though trainer David Marnane's Jamesie was possibly unlucky not to collect in the concluding Buckingham Palace Handicap.
Johnny Murtagh's mount led the pack on the stands' side past the post but over on the far rail, Eton Forever streaked clear to give trainer Roger Varian his first Royal Ascot success.
“I’m delighted. You can come here with a good team but every year reminds you how hard it is to win here,” said Varian. “We have been hitting the crossbar all week and they have been running well but coming third, fourth and fifth.
“He was our last throw of the dice this week and he is a special horse. He has been such a star for me, he was my first winner and now he is my first Royal Ascot winner.
“I think he either wants an easy mile or stiff seven furlongs and just didn’t get home in the Royal Hunt Cup last year.”
Callan added: “This has been a great horse for me. He was probably travelling just a bit too well over a mile and wasn’t quite seeing it out. This is such a hard week and it’s great to have a winner.”
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