Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (Group 1)
KHAADEM (Charlie Hills), an 80/1 outsider in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes, has history at the meeting, having almost won the 2022 King’s Stand without a jockey after sitting down in the stalls with Jamie Spencer left high and dry, but he belatedly made amends by providing Spencer with a welcome Group 1 winner, becoming the longest-priced winner of the six-furlong Group 1 in its long history.
The Fitri Hay-owned seven-year-old was ridden with extreme patience, as is Spencer’s wont, and with the pace a scorching one, the tactics were perfect. Drawn alongside Sacred (William Haggas/Tom Marquand), he tracked that rival as she made her move from midfield with a quarter of a mile left and edged ahead in the last 50 yards to win by a neck.
Highfield Princess (John Quinn/Jason Hart) fared best of those drawn high to be placed for the second time in the week, and she deserves enormous credit to be beaten just a length and a half having made the running in a race where the hold-up horses dominated the finish.
Spencer said: “I felt no pressure. I followed Frankie and Tom and could see Tom was going well at half-way. So just like in a cycling race, you let him do the work for you and, you hope that when you pull out, you have a little bit to fire.
“Even my children are watching now and, in years before, when I was flying at this meeting, they were too young to understand – now it’s nice when you get texts from them saying well done.
“Winning Group 1s is hard, but it’s a fantastic day and I’m going to enjoy it. I sit beside Frankie in the weighing room. It was looking bleak in the last few days having to listen to him, but at least I’ve had a little bit of a fightback.”
Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)
PYLEDRIVER (William Muir and Chris Grassick) had been absent through injury since a famous win in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes over course and distance last summer, but under a no-nonsense ride from PJ McDonald, he looked as good as ever as he gave his rider a first Royal Ascot winner in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.
Sent off at an SP of 7/2, Pyledriver was keen enough in the early stages, but was soon settled in third place, and showed no signs of ring-rustiness as he travelled up strongly behind the pace-setting West Wind Blows (David Simcock/Jamie Spencer), forging past that rival to score by a length and a quarter, despite shifting left and then right when hitting the front in somewhat typical fashion. Despite his waywardness, there is no questioning his courage, and this was another brave effort from Pyledriver, whose record over course and distance is now three wins from as many runs.
Changingoftheguard (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore) was slightly hampered by the winner, but not enough to cost him position, and he finished third, another length away having been prominent throughout. Favourite Free Wind had beaten Duke of Cambridge winner Rogue Millennium at York on her previous start, but she wasn’t in the same form here, and flattered only briefly on the home turn before finishing fifth.
Winning co-trainer William Muir said: “I know how much this horse will improve. Yes, he rolled around, but he was on fumes. There are loads of people to thank. The lad who looks after him, Pyledriver bit him today and he has got a great big haematoma on his arm, and he said it is ‘a love bite’.
“He rolled around in the St Leger, and ‘they’ said it was Martin Dwyer, that he is not a good jockey – I tell you Martin is a great jockey and made this horse what he is today. We will see how he is tonight, tomorrow, the next day – but the King George will be next all being well. This is what we dream of, to have horses like this. The owners were offered fortunes for him as a three-year-old, and they have been so loyal to the horse.”
McDonald said: “Pyledriver is a horse that when he hits the front, he always runs around. I thought when I came on the outside, he’d be okay but, when I gave him a dig one side, he’s lugged one way and then the other.
“It just goes to show how much ability he has that he’s not concentrating on running in a straight line. I straightened him up each time, but I think he’s a very comfortable winner and I don’t think anyone can take it away from him.
“I think they had him pretty fit. Today was only ever a starting point moving forward to the King George, so to get the win under his belt is a massive bonus. We have a superstar horse; I just need to keep him in a straight line!”
Chesham Stakes (Listed)
GAVIN Cromwell and Gary Carroll struck with Quick Suzy in the 2021 Queen Mary Stakes, and the pair teamed up to double their Royal Ascot tally courtesy of Snellen in the Listed Chesham Stakes.
Winner of a fillies’ maiden at Limerick just 10 days prior to this contest (although had also won a barrier trial at Naas before that), the daughter of Expert Eye travelled notably strongly on the stands side of the main pack, and although she took a while to pick up when initially asked, she kept on just too strongly for race favourite Pearls And Rubies (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore), winning by a head despite edging left.
There was a dead-heat for third between Golden Mind (Richard Fahey/Oisin Orr) and Oddyssey (Patrick Owens/Jim Crowley) in a race where just over a length separated the first five home.
Carroll said: “I thought we would all be staying on the stands’ side, but the fancied horses all ended up further away. The last half furlong was a very long half furlong for me – she was looking for company and started to lean a bit, but she’s a very good filly.
“She is a little bit weak and was getting a little lonely when she started rolling. I tried to correct her in Limerick when she went like that and lost momentum. So, I was going forwards and thought, ‘keep going’, and thankfully I hung on.
“Gavin is doing some job with these horses, without a doubt. Whether it’s three miles or five furlongs, he gets the best out of everything. But Gavin, all he wants to do is improve, there are no airs or graces.
“He said he went down and spent a day with Joseph O’Brien, and last year he spent a day with Paddy Twomey, just to try and pick up something. His results are showing.”
Jersey Stakes (Group 3)
AGE Of Kings (Aidan O’Brien/Wayne Lordan) became the second winner of the week to emerge from the Irish 2000 Guineas, showing much-improved form to land the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at 22/1.
Soon chasing the leader, he moved to the front a quarter of a mile out travelling best but had to battle to withhold late challenges from Zoology (James Ferguson/Oisin Murphy) and Streets Of Gold (Eve Johnson Houghton/Charlie Bishop) by a length and a neck. Despite the trio who filled the frame being relative outsiders, there was no hint of a fluke about the result in a race that looked wide open on paper.
Lordan had the winning ride here as Ryan Moore opted for The Antarctic who proved disappointing, although probably failed to stay the seven-furlong trip under a change of tactics having made all to win the six-furlong Lacken Stakes at Naas in May. It was the winning rider’s fifth winner at Royal Ascot.
Aidan O’Brien, saddling his 85th Royal Ascot winner, said: “Age Of Kings tries hard. Wayne kept it uncomplicated and said he’d get a mile if we wanted. The Guineas was only his first run of the year, it was a very good run, and he came forward from that.
“We’ve had lots of placed horses and it is hard to have winners. I am so delighted for the lads. We came here for many years without having winners, so we know what it is like.”
THE Wokingham Stakes saw 22/1 shot Saint Lawrence give Hollie Doyle and Archie Watson a third winner of the week, scoring on his debut for the stable by a length from Apollo One (Peter Charalambous and James Clutterbuck) having come from the back of the field after a slow start.
Reflecting on his Royal Ascot tally, Watson said: “It is incredible. We came here with a handful of 20/1 shots really, and to win three races is just beyond my wildest dreams. It is amazing.”
Neil Callan is another jockey to have advertised his talents well at the meeting, and he added to his 33/1 success on Triple Time by landing the Golden Gates Handicap on Burdett Road for Michael Bell.
The winner was returned at 20/1 and scored by three-parts of a length from Lion Of War (Charlie Johnston/Oisin Murphy), one of the co-favourites. Sadly, another of the market leaders, Canute, broke a hind leg and couldn’t be saved.
As mentioned, the finale went to Dawn Rising in the silks of J.P. McManus, with the 2/1 favourite repelling challenge of The Grand Visir (Ian Williams/Richard Kingscote) by half a length to take the Queen Alexandra Stakes.
IT was a familiar story when the final scores were tallied at Ascot on Saturday, with Ballydoyle dominant as so often in the past. Coolmore took the leading owner title at Royal Ascot for a fourth time, with a quartet of winners trained by Aidan O’Brien, namely River Tiber (Coventry) Paddington (St James’s Palace), Warm Heart (Ribblesdale) and Age Of Kings (Jersey).
O’Brien’s was crowned leading trainer for the 12th time, edging out John and Thady Gosden, and after a treble on the opening day, Ryan Moore ended the week with six wins to secure a 10th riding title at Royal Ascot. Three of his wins came for Aidan, with Willie Mullins providing an armchair ride on Vauban in the Copper Horse Handicap; he also rode two for Joseph O’Brien, with Okita Soushi breaking Ryan’s duck for the yard in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap and Dawn Rising doubling that tally in the Queen Alexandra Stakes.
Frankie Dettori ended his association with the historic meeting on a mixed note. The 52-year-old rode his first Royal Ascot winner as a teenager aboard Markofdistinction for Luca Cumani in 1990 and went out on a high with four victories including a ninth Gold Cup on Courage Mon Ami, bringing his total at the meeting to 81 winners. He was presented with a commemorative number cloth celebrating that achievement following his final ride.
If Frankie left on a high, he was soon brought down to earth, as a review of his ride on Inspiral in the Queen Anne found that he used his whip once above the permitted level, meaning an eight-day ban which will see him miss the ride on Kinross in the July Cup - ironically the only domestic Group 1 which has eluded him.
ALL told, eight different Irish trainers hit the bullseye at Royal Ascot, but there were winners elsewhere as well. With the focus on the big meeting last week, I forgot to give a mention to Baltinglass, Co Wicklow handler Thomas Dowling, who saddled Asgard’s Captain to dead-heat for a one-mile handicap at Ripon on Thursday last. Ben Curtis did the steering.
On Saturday, Co Derry trainer Noel Kelly achieved an across-the-card double with Clarinbridge (Darragh Keenan) scoring on the flat at Ayr and Doune Castle (Oran McGill) winning a maiden hurdle at Perth. Kelly also struck last Thursday at Uttoxeter when Supposedtobe landed the selling hurdle under Sean Bowen.
Gordon Elliott rarely leaves Perth empty handed and bagged a brace on Saturday with Gortmilish and Themanintheboots both scoring over hurdles for Sean Bowen. The following day, John McConnell continued both his and Bowen’s fine recent form when Champagnesocialist took the maiden hurdle at Hexham, becoming the Stamullen handler’s fifth winner from eight runners in Britain in the current season.
Also on Sunday, Derry Lad (Shane Gray) won again for Co Tipperary’s Kevin Coleman – this was the horse’s second win in a Sky Bet Sunday Series Race and means he is in line for a £100k bonus if winning once more in the series.
It was a big day on Wednesday for the Hanlon clan, as 16-year-old Paddy won the Worcester bumper on Chef D’Etat for his father John, known to one and all as Shark.
Paddy - sure to be known universally as Baby Shark now for obvious reasons - won the Dingle Derby last year but had been granted his qualified rider licence only a week before this success, with his only previous experience under rules when riding in a maiden at Leopardstown last week.