Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap)

GER and Colin Keane put the Royal County into Royal Ascot as their sensational improver Crystal Black swept past the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes field to provide the father-and-son partnership with a victory to treasure.

No winner across the first four days of Royal Meeting received the level of passionate reception that awaited the 35,000gns bargain buy from the 2022 Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale.

The Wear A Pink Ribbon Syndicate were out in force and hoisted Ireland’s champion jockey on their shoulders in the hallowed Ascot winner’s enclosure - there was even a sing-song on ITV Racing.

Crystal Black has been making sweet music of his own over the last 10 months. He has barely looked back since notching his first win for the Keanes off a mark of 77 at the Curragh last August, going on to land a further four valuable handicaps in succession to mark himself out as a genuine group horse in waiting.

Fellow Irish raider Ethical Diamond was sent off the 7/4 favourite for Willie Mullins, though proved much too keen and ran an admirable race in the circumstances to finish fourth. The Moyglare-bred winner was much easier to back at 11/1 and finished two and a quarter lengths ahead of the David O’Meara-trained Epic Poet (25/1).

“It is the most emotional I’ve felt about riding a winner - it’s very special riding one for my father at Royal Ascot, and a great bunch of owners,” said the winning rider.

“They might not get home for a while, but they’re dead right. Crystal Black has improved from run to run. We thought he’d get a mile and a half the way he was finishing over a mile and a quarter; he seems to be a horse who the longer he’s on the bridle, the better he travels, and he can quicken.

Hugely progressive

“He is just very progressive. At home, he can just win a neck or head and has kept on the right side of the handicapper, thankfully. You’d imagine he’d have to move up to group level now.

“Dad only has a small number of horses, and we’re mainly a breaking and pre-training yard now, so to have a horse like him in the yard is brilliant.”

Ger Keane had never even saddled a runner at Royal Ascot prior to this. He says it was never something he thought would ever happen.

“He’s a very good horse, a straightforward horse at home,” said the popular trainer.

“He’s very lazy in his work; if you make him work, he works well. You can work him with anything – you work him with an ordinary horse, he works beside him. If you work him with a good horse, he’ll work beside him. That’s the way he is.

“This was the plan. He will have a couple of weeks holiday and we’ll see. I imagine group races and listed races, that type of thing – he’s probably finished in handicaps after today.”

Winning co-owner Neville Eager added: “We had a horse with Willie Mullins called True Self, with a lovely girl called Breda Miley who was always with us, but she’s passed away since. We raise money for cancer, and Colin rode True Self for us.

“I met Colin in Hong Kong. One night, I said to him, just for luck, can you buy us a horse and we’ll go with you again. I’d say, nearly two years to the day, Colin rings me and says I’m going to buy a horse tomorrow I like at the sales. I said go on then, and he organised it.

“We’ve been to Melbourne before with True Self, but I don’t know whether he’ll go back with this horse yet. I haven’t had time to catch my breath.”

Loughnane doubles Royal tally

Sandringham Stakes

AN already fantastic week got even better for teenage wonder Billy Loughnane in the Sandringham Stakes as he doubled his tally at the Royal Meeting with a late surge aboard Soprano for trainer George Boughey.

Fresh from his 80/1 shock success on Rashabar in the Coventry Stakes earlier this week, the 18-year-old was extremely assured on the 14/1 shot, who carried the colours of the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing - Da Vinci Partnership.

There were seven Irish-trained runners in the mix, and the Joseph O’Brien-trained Uluru (28/1) fared best of the raiding party in third. Kitty Rose (7/2 favourite), making her first start since a training switch from Natalia Lupini to Australian connections, ran creditably enough in fifth.

The winner scored by half a length from Zhang Yuesheng’s 33/1 outsider Strutting, who made a bold bid on the front end under Rachel King for John and Thady Gosden.

Loughnane said: “This week just keeps getting better and better. Nothing beats riding a winner here. I was so lucky early in the week to land one and get the pressure off. The feeling doesn’t get old.

“To give George a winner at Ascot means a lot. Soprano’s form was very strong from a two-year-old, and this is her first step back in a handicap - she’d been running in stakes company - and first try over the mile as well.”

Boughey added: “We’ve always held this filly in really high regard. Huge credit has to go to Harry [Herbert, Highclere Thoroughbred managing director] because we had a long conversation in the office the other morning. I wanted to go to Carlisle for a listed race and he wanted to come here - thankfully we did come here.”

Fanning records 10th Royal Ascot winner

Palace of Holyrood House Stakes

JOE Fanning, the veteran jockey from Roundwood, Co Wicklow, rode his 10th Royal Ascot winner when partnering Pilgrim to win the 28-runner Palace of Holyrood House Handicap over five furlongs.

Trained in Yorkshire by the father-and-daughter team of David and Nicola Barron, Pilgrim was racing off a mark of 92, having bolted up off 81 at Musselburgh on June 1st.

The 18/1 winner came up the centre of the track in this three-year-old handicap and hit the front a furlong out. Another big winner for his sire Havana Grey, the gelding never looked like being caught in the closing stages and was chased home by Blue Storm, No Half Measures and Woodhay Wonder.

The two Irish-trained runners, Jack Davison’s Scorchio and Adrian Murray’s Majestic Beauty, were never in the hunt.

Pilgrim was bred by Whitsbury Manor Stud and was sold for £65,000 as a yearling at the Goffs UK Premer Yearling Sale.

Numbers of the day

1st – Royal Ascot winner for Gerard Keane

2nd – Royal Ascot winner for Colin Keane

2nd – Royal Ascot winner for Donnacha O’Brien

84th – Royal Ascot winner for Ryan Moore

90th – Royal Ascot winner for Aidan O’Brien

Rossa Ryan handed three-day ban

AN inquiry was held into interference shortly after the start in the Commonwealth Cup when Starlust, ridden by Rossa Ryan, interfered with Louis Barthas and Military.

Ryan was suspended for three days for careless riding as he allowed his mount to drift left-handed when insufficiently clear of Louis Barthas, which in turn caused Military to be short of room. David Egan the rider of California Dreamer in the Albany was fined £80 following an inquiry into why Egan had failed to comply with parade ring protocol in a timely manner.

Jamie Spencer was also suspended for three days for careless riding on Arisaig in the Sandringham Stakes, found to have interfered with Julica and Mrs Morrell.