It’s been almost three years since we have witnessed such an explosive racing season highlighted by Royal Ascot 2022, a week that once again showcased the very best of British racing.
None of displaying of QR codes and bits of paper for covid passes this time.
The snazzy, full-on outfits were back and the buzz of excitement the ladies get from piecing together an outfit made for an exhilarating time.
Some great events tend to start steadily and build but not so this Royal meeting. Day one on Tuesday literally exploded into life with the scintillating performance of the Late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s dashing Baaeed strolled home in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes with an air of nonchalance about him that only the very best racehorses possess. How proud all at Shadwell will be to have bred such a star. But please, let’s leave the Frankel adjectives aside, for the time being.
The second Group 1 was won in mind-boggling fashion by Australia’s Nature Strip. Chris Waller’s charge was steered by James MacDonald (one-time Godolphin’s Australian retained jockey) whose riding all week was head and shoulders above that of America’s Puerto Rican-born jockey Irad Ortiz.
Irad and his brother, Jose, practically clean up New York races all year but sadly he was very much at sea on the track’s undulations, to the point, that he even fluffed his lines in the starting gates, notably on Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal thus leaving Nature Strip to run unchallenged throughout.
Royal Ascot rolled straight into a third Group 1 via the St James Palace in which 2000 Guineas winner Coroebus scrambled home in a messy affair.
The adage of “it’s not how you did it but that you did” could be aptly applied here. If Baaeed and Coroebus meet at Goodwood for the Sussex Stakes they could have a truly titanic battle.
Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor continues to pick his riders from the best available on any given day, a point driven home with the classy Danny Tudhope bringing home Dubai Future in the Wolferton Stakes, an excellent jockey choice as Tudhope went on to have four winners through the week.
Day Two provided us with joy in the shape of State of Rest taking the Group One Prince of Wales’s Stakes for young Joseph O’Brien and jockey Shane Crosse.
What a special horse to own, the current tally being; six Group 1 runs for four Group 1 wins in five different countries which includes the Cox Plate in Australia. He appears straightforward to ride and enjoys his job.
Trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam has a select team of horses which she places to perfection, never afraid to travel abroad with the right one. She is astute and alert to her pupil’s talents, skills which Saffron Beach advertises to perfection.
He ran out a comfortable winner of the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge by an unchallenged three and a half lengths with William Buick as his pilot.
The same lady trainer would probably have had a second winner ( in the Royal Hunt Cup) with Intellogent had the handicapper not given him a 9 pound hike up the weights after a third placed finish in a Listed race back at the end of April, a race in which, interestingly, the winner and the second horse were subsequently left untouched on their respective handicap marks.
The nine-pound rise was undoubtedly responsible for his half a length beating at the hooves of Dark Shift [Charlie Hills and James MacDonald] who had gone up just five pounds for his previous run, a win at Nottingham three weeks earlier.
Day Three saw a highly unusual set of circumstances as we witnessed rider Paul Hanagan, who never commits a crime in a race, move almost seven horses width across the track under a right-handed whip with zero correction, taking out two runners on the route. Amazingly under the silly rules in the UK, he was allowed to remain the winner whilst collecting a 10-day suspension for his errant ways aboard a very appropriately named The Ridler!
One can sympathize to a degree with Hanagan who was unceremoniously sacked by long-time boss and friend Richard Fahey only a few days earlier but brought back in for this ride.
The Gold Cup went to Kyprios although Dettori still managed to claim the headlines even in defeat, receiving overly severe criticism for his ride on Stradivarius. It was my opinion on Dubai Racing Channel’s preview earlier that day that the older a horse gets the more they are likely to dislike running on hard ground for the simple reason that it can be a bit painful. This great racehorse owes nothing to his owner, Bjorn Nelson, and trainer John Gosden and I fail to see what he has left to prove on the track.
I personally would have loved to have seen him there “parading” before the race not taking part in it.
Frankie Dettori was business as usual on Day Four taking the main prize, the Group 1 Coronation Cup on Cheveley Park’s lovely filly Inspiral. I would like to think the winning trainer, Gosden was a tad contrite following his unnecessarily harsh words the day before.
Day Five exchanged summer for winter weather but Charlie Appleby remained hot with a superb double. All credit to his traveling head lad Chris for such professional handling of the tricky Noble Truth before the race. Both he and William Buick were exceptional and got their reward with the Jersey trophy for Godolphin.
It was James Doyle’s turn to shine brightly and dazzlingly with a cracker of a ride in the Platinum Jubilee Group 1 aboard Naval Crown with the charming Creative Force thinking he had won his own race on the far side and just a neck separating the stable mates.
Godolphin ended the week as Leading Owner.
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