Article Date: 21-June-2012
Princess Highway became the sixth Irish-trained winner at this year's Royal Ascot when running out an impressive winner of the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes for Dermot Weld, Pat Smullen and Moyglare Stud.
The six-length win comes a decade after her dam Irresistible Jewel landed the same race for connections.
Sent off at 17/2, Princess Highway was chased home by The Fugue (5/2 favourite) and Shirocco Star.
“It’s nice to come back and win the same race I did with her dam,” said Weld. “Princess Highway has been a backward filly, but she progressed well during the spring and beat the winner of the Oaks (Was) convincingly last time in the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas.
“That race is named after Blue Wind, who was very special and the best filly I’d trained before this one, but I’m hoping Princess Highway could be even better. We took our time with her and she was a very good winner at Leopardstown before the Blue Wind.
“I thought this was an excellent renewal of the Ribblesdale Stakes and she really had to improve to win today, but she has gone and done it. She has a lot of pace and we were not surprised by the way she won - I was confident that it would take a very good filly to beat her.
“Ascot has always been very lucky for me and she is a late developing filly so I thought Epsom might just come a little bit too soon for her. It also gave us a little bit more time to come here and she will now go onto the Irish Oaks. She’s very progressive and one to look forward to later in the year.
“I think she has proved it there that she is the best mile and a half filly of her generation. She was in the Prix de Diane last Sunday, but we decided to come here and my only concern was the ground may have been a bit too soft for her. We need stars like Frankel and Black Caviar and maybe we’ve just seen a future star here.
“They went a real good pace and Pat (Smullen) rightfully took his time and rode a good race as always.”
Smullen has never won the Irish Oaks, but he has a leading candidate for next month’s renewal.
The winning rider said: “She’s a beautiful filly to ride because she’s uncomplicated, she travels and quickens. Like the boss said the only fear today was that the ground might be too soft but she handled it really well - it’s not bad ground anyway, just a bit dead down the back but better in the straight, but I think quicker ground would suit her.
“She beat the subsequent Oaks winner Was at Naas [in May] so the form was in the book and today she proved she stays a mile and a half. I had a lovely run around, possibly a little wider than ideal, but it’s better to do that than risk an interrupted run. In truth you could have ridden her anywhere today.
“She’s as good as I’ve ridden. She shows so much pace at home I was worried about today’s trip. In truth I probably got to the front too soon, but I saw The Fugue getting a run and wanted to cover that. You simply cannot beat class and she is as good as any three-year-old that’s around.
“The Irish Oaks is the logical step - I’ve never won the race and this is as good a ride as I’m likely to have in it.”
John Gosden was ruing the rain that arrived overnight after The Fugue’s second placing. “Disappointing that it came,” said the Newmarket trainer, “because this is a superior filly on faster ground. She proved that at York [in winning the Musidora Stakes] and you’ve only got to look at her dainty little feet to see why it’s obvious.
“Today’s winner [Princess Highway] is smart, make no mistake. She won very well and we were beaten fair and square on the day. But I’d like to meet some of these again on good to firm because she is very good on that.
“She’ll have a little holiday now, she’s a bit of an overgrown adolescent. The Yorkshire Oaks is the big plan, then perhaps a trip to Santa Anita in the autumn, and she’d be one for next year too.”
Hughie Morrison, responsible for short-head third Shirocco Star, praised his charge for her trailblazing bravery. “We tried to play on her stayer’s strength and probably lost second as a result,” he said. “She ran a huge race though. The winner is very good and she and the Oaks winner [Was], The Fugue and ourselves are the four best middle distance fillies at the moment.
“But she didn’t stop, did she? It was a brave performance. When the winner went past, most horses might have chucked it in, but she didn’t. We’ll she how she gets on, but the Irish Oaks next month would be the plan.”
Read Ian Carnaby's Royal Ascot reports in The Irish Field on Saturday. Online from 10.30pm on Fridays.
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