70 Wins Up for Dettori at Royal Meetings on Day 4 at Ascot
Today at Ascot, Group races returned to the fore with five of the seven races being of top Group action. The main race of the day was the Commonwealth Cup, a sprint contest over six furlongs for 3 year olds and up. Other headline races were three Group 2 races, the Hardwick Stakes, the Chesham Stakes and the Norfolk Stakes and the Group 3 Albany Stakes. The day was completed with two handicaps. After the rain of the past couple of days, the going today was officially good to soft and soft on the round course. Before racing, for pundits, today was the most difficult to predict who may or may not achieve victory as all the races seem to be very open affairs.
The first race if the day was the Palace of Holyrood Stakes, a sprint handicap over 5 furlongs for 3 year olds. This is another included race for the first time this year and with 21 runners was always likely to be a very fast charge to the line. The race was easily won by the Tim Easterby trained Art Power.
This was followed by the first of the Group races, Group 3 Albany Stakes for 2 year old fillies only over six furlongs. All the 13 runners had had just the one run, of which seven have won, so to pick the winner was a pundits dilemma. Setarhe was sent off favourite from the inform stable of Roger Varian at this meeting. Ventura Vision refused to go into the stalls, so the race went without her. Flying Aletha took them along well into the final furling when Dandella came out of the pack and cruised through to an easy win. The filly is trained by Karl Burke and ridden by Ben Curtis, his first Royal Ascot winner. Setarhe was second with Mother Earth in third.
The Group 2 Norfolk Stakes has long been a regular fixture at this meeting for 2 year old colts over the minimum distance of 5 furlongs. As with the previous race, there were 12 runners going to post. Again, all bar two had had just one run with only four making a visit to the winner’s enclosure. Eye of Heaven, a winner at Newmarket was one of the top choices before the off. In the race, Golden Pal, trained by Wesley Ward from the USA blasted to the front. He very nearly stayed there but for being just pipped on the line by The Lir Jet, record breaking winner at Yarmouth on his only start before this. The Lir Jet is trained by Michael Bell. Second was Golden Pal with Imperial Force in third.
Another traditional stalwart for the meeting was the fourth race, the Group 2 Hardwick Stakes, this time over 1 ½ miles for 4 year olds. 9 runners presented themselves before the starter including last year’s Epsom Derby winner Anthony van Dyke, already a runner this year at Newmarket and who finished in second to Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup. Others of note before the off were Elarqam and Fanny Logan. Communique took the lead for most of the race and as he came back to the others in the straight, it became a rough sort of affair, but Fanny Logan on the outside ridden by Frankie Dettori swooped to take the lead. The John Gosden trained horse gave Dettori his 70th win at Royal Ascot. The second home was Alounak with Defoe in third. Anthony Van Dyke was unable to get out for a run, so that ended his race!.
The feature race of the day followed – The Commonwealth Cup Group 1 for 3 year olds only over 6 furlongs. This race often has a few runners who were also in the King Stand Stakes earlier in the week, and the same horse has been known to win both races, for example Blue Point who won both contests in 2019. This year the race seemed a very open affair with a big field of 16 runners going to post. The Roger Varian trained Pierre Lapin appeared to have the best credentials before the off, the colt having won the Horris Hill Stakes last term and was unbeaten at two years. After a clean break from the stalls, Mother Tipple trained by Richard Hannon took the lead into the final furlong when the Clive Cox trained Golden Horde took the lead under Adam Kirby and was not going to be denied. The USA trained Kimari came through to take second with Venture Rebel coming third. The fancied Pierre Lapin was unfortunately last.
The final Group race of the day was a Group 2 over 1 mile 6 furlongs for 3 year colts and geldings only, The Queen’s Vase. With only 7 runners, several looked to have a chance on form before the off. The Queen had Punctuation in the race although was not thought to have much of a say in matters! Berkshire Rocco was very well thought of for Andrew Balding. This horse was second to current Epsom Derby favourite English King – winner of Derby Trial at Lingfield a week or so ago and a race with very good form thus far this season. The Queen’s runner took the lead in this race, but what high knee action the horse has, but Punctuation stayed in the lead until the race really got going at the turn 3 furlongs from home. O’Brien trained Santiago went into the lead which he was not to loose, but Berkshire Rocco went with him and the pair were streets ahead of the other five runners at the line. The third horse home was Al Dabaran.
The day’s racing finished with a second handicap, again for 3 year olds only, but this time over 1 ½ miles – The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes. 14 runners took this on in a very open race with six or seven thought to have a squeak. The race was a rather rough race during the earlier stages and ended with a three way dash for the line. Scarlett Dragon won, trained by Alan King and ridden by Hollie Doyle – her first ever Royal Ascot winner. In second was Deja and in third was West End Charmer. Scarlet Dragon is very much a duel horse having won hurdle races before and now a Royal Ascot flat winner to add to his tally.