St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1)

IN one of the most anticipated clashes of the meeting, featuring the winners of the English, Irish and French 2000 Guineas, it was Newmarket runner-up and Curragh hero Rosallion (Richard Hannon/Sean Levey) who took top honours, again finishing strongest from off the pace to score, this time beating National Stakes winner Henry Longfellow (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore) by a neck, with French 2000 Guineas winner Metropolitan (Mario Baratti/Alexis Pouchin) third, a further three lengths behind. Notable Speech, who beat Rosallion by a length and a half in the Newmarket Guineas, was an underwhelming seventh.

The son of Blue Point was solid in the betting at 5/2 and impressed again with the way he quickened to get on terms after Henry Longfellow had got first run early in the straight. In fairness to Sean Levey, he always had Rosallion where he wanted, having started from the tricky inside berth, and the winner’s turn of foot on quick ground marks him down as the best of his generation at a mile, notwithstanding his Newmarket defeat.

Hannon said: “Rosallion was special before today. We lost in the Guineas, but he has always been brilliant - physically and mentally. I couldn’t believe he got beaten in the Guineas the way he was travelling. He won the Irish Guineas very well [and] is the complete package - as good as I’ve ever seen in our place.

“He was bred by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid and is a great advert for a new stallion.

“Quite often you call these horses something that they’re not, because you want them to be the best, and quite often you are disappointed.

“That’s an occupational hazard. But this lad has never let me down.

“Rosallion is in the Sussex, he’s in all those big races, and I can’t wait. It is not about being proven right either, it’s about the work that goes into these horses from everybody at home. We’ve been watching him all winter, and this kind of horse makes it a shorter winter.”

On Sean Levey, Hannon added: “He is a brilliant jockey, always has been, and very loyal. Sheikh Obaid has let him ride the horse; he’s our man, and we are delighted to have him.”

Charyn sizzles for Varian

Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)

CHARYN (Roger Varian/Silvestre de Sousa) gained his first success at the highest level when justifying 10/3 favouritism in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot on Tuesday, improving on a recent second to Audience in the Lockinge Stakes with the race run to suit.

Audience again set the pace but wasn’t allowed the rope he had in the Lockinge, while Big Rock and Facteur Cheval were kept to the far side of the track and failed to figure in the finish after showing early speed.

The dashing grey son of Dark Angel sat close up behind the strong pace on the near side and swept through to pass Audience with over a furlong left, quickly besting his old rival and clearing away for a comfortable two and a quarter-length win over Docklands (Harry Eustace/Hayley Turner), with Maljoom (William Haggas/Tom Marquand) beaten five lengths in total into third. That pair made significant ground from the rear, but were beaten on merit by the progressive winner, who sports the colours of Hesmonds Stud owner Nurlan Bizakov.

Varian said: “I am really delighted for his owner, who has invested so much in the game and has supported me for a number of years. For my team I am delighted, as everyone works so hard at home. It is a great day, and we’ll enjoy it.

“You have to say Charyn has improved as he’s got older. He ran some fine races in defeat last year. He was in the biggest races, on the top table and didn’t disgrace himself.

“He seems to have found another level of form this year. His run in the Lockinge last time was an outstanding run, and he’s confirmed that today, so I’m thrilled.

“He started early, and his first race was at Doncaster in March, so I don’t think we can go bang, bang, bang all summer,” Varian added. “We would love to be back here for Champions Day later in the season, with a couple of races along the way.”

Rashabar gives Loughnane first group win

Coventry Stakes (Group 2)

THERE was a shock in the Coventry Stakes as 80/1 shot Rashabar scored in some familiar colours for trainer Brian Meehan and teenage rider Billy Loughnane, who is enjoying a momentous week.

Loughnane rode his 200th winner at Windsor on Monday and was gaining a first Royal Ascot success aboard the winner, who was shedding his maiden status in this Group 2 contest.

Carrying the famous Robert Sangster colours now belonging to Manton Thoroughbreds, a syndicate run by Sangster’s son Sam, Rashabar defied his maiden status by racing to a narrow victory over fellow longshots Electrolyte (Archie Watson/Hollie Doyle) and Columnist (Richard Fahey/Oisin Orr), both of whom were sporting the Wathnan Racing silks.

In a close finish which saw the principals racing on opposite sides of the track, Rashabar – clear of the others on the far side - was adjudged to have won by a nose, with a head separating the placed pair.

The winner was third to the well-touted Hawaiian on debut before finishing third from a poor draw at Chester and although he was largely unconsidered, his connections were more than hopeful of a bold show, with Meehan saying: “Tremendous, this feels amazing. Dare I say it was not a huge surprise.

“He’s felt very good since Chester, and everything has gone really well with him throughout.

“Sean has obviously got first choice of rides, [but] we get to use Billy when we can – he’s a great kid, a lovely way about him and wonderful with people. The world is his oyster as far as the horse business is concerned.”

On future plans, he added: “I’ve always liked the idea of the Prix Morny. The July Stakes would be too soon but obviously we have to think about Group 1 races.”

Asfoora sprints all the way from Aus

King Charles III Stakes (Group 1)

ASFOORA (Henry Dwyer/Oisin Murphy) became the sixth Australian-trained horse to win the Group 1 King Charles III Stakes (formerly the King’s Strand) when she powered to a length win over Regional (Ed Bethell/Callum Rodriguez) in the five-furlong contest.

Big Evs (Mick Appleby/Tom Marquand) started favourite and made most of the running on the far side of the track but was collared a furlong out by a pair who raced on the stands’ side until the groups converged late in the race.

Sent off a 5/1 chance after a pipe-opener in the Temple Stakes at Haydock, Asfoora veered towards Big Evs as she launched her challenge and she was tenacious in holding on to gain a first Group 1 success, having only been placed at that level in her native country.

She would not be viewed as one of the elite sprinters in Australia, but has limited options over five furlongs, and trainer Henry Dwyer took a brave decision to travel her to Ascot, and saw that decision brilliantly justified.

Amazing experience

Dwyer said: “I am really struggling for words, funnily enough. We have come a long way from Ballarat, but it’s been an amazing experience from start to finish. We’ve been so well looked after and we’re so grateful for that.

“Chenelle, who looks after this horse the whole time, has sacrificed a lot to be here so I’m thrilled for her. It was a bit of an audacious plan. This time last year – or probably two years ago – I thought, we’re restricted in Australia, and we need a few options over here.

“We got a bit of stick from home for bringing her over because she wasn’t seen as one of our better sprinters, but we just didn’t have the races for her in Australia and she’s proved she’s up to it and I’m thrilled for everyone involved.

“To get a Group 1 at home is great but to get one at Royal Ascot is just amazing. We’ve got so many people here sharing it with us, but there is another group of 40 or 50 of my owners from home that would saw their left leg off to have a runner at Royal Ascot. It is an amazing experience.”


Australia Fair – but Hannon keeps the home fires burning

TUESDAY at Royal Ascot rarely fails to deliver, and threw up several worthy stories this year, with the St James’s Palace Stakes producing a clash of three Guineas winners in which Rosallion left trainer Richard Hannon vindicated, emotional and proud.

Another trainer who didn’t stick to the stiff-upper-lip script was Australian handler Henry Dwyer, who was mocked on home soil for taking Asfoora to Ascot given she’d fallen short of the best down under, but he also saw a bold plan justified with the five-year-old mare, who joins the likes of Choisir and Nature Strip in taking the King Charles III Stakes trophy back to the antipodes.

One of the internet’s greatest jokes is that there was a time where if you googled “French Military Victories,” you would get the response: “Did you mean French Military Defeats?” That was a low period for our gallic cousins, and we had a reminder of that in the very first race of the meeting where French-trained pair Big Rock and Facteur Cheval were expected in some quarters to repeat their dominance in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day where they finished first and second in a race where the home team were humbled.

That drubbing was quickly forgotten when Christophe Soumillon and Maxime Guyon took what appeared a joint decision to plough a lonely furrow up the far side of the track while all the other runners followed Audience on the stands’ side.

Go too hard

Big Rock may not be the easiest to anchor, but he seemed to go far too hard in the circumstances and Guyon was more than happy to take a tow on Facteur Cheval, winning the battle but losing the war as he and his well-fancied mount trailed home over eight lengths behind easy winner Charyn.

The winner deserves all the praise, of course, but Soumillon and Guyon have something to answer for given the strange tactics in a relatively small field.

Certainly, the ground was no slower where Big Rock raced, but he had folded tamely in the Lockinge on his return when over-racing, and the decision to play rabbit again on much faster ground than he wants was an odd one, albeit with owner and trainer needing to take responsibility as well.

With Big Rock looking a shadow of the horse who romped away with the QEII, Facteur Cheval was effectively left on his own and had little chance marooned as he was away from the main action.

Acknowledging that Soumillon is Belgian (before anyone else points it out), it must be said that this turned into something of a French Farce for the visitors.