Records Broken – Great Racing for Final Day at Ascot
Today was the final day of the 2020 Royal Meeting and although it has been held behind closed doors and there has been no Royalty at the event, the first time The Queen has not attended for over 70 years, the meeting does seem to have gone very well with the new infrastructure put in place and as usual, there has been some terrific racing. Today really was the pinnacle of the whole week with three Group 1 races, a brace of Group 2s and a brace of handicaps plus the traditional final race of the meeting, the 2 mile 5 ½ furlong Queen Alexandra Stakes. With the drying wind and lack of any recent rain, the going was a perfect – good.
The first race was the ‘Silver’ Wokingham Handicap, another extra race at this year’s meeting to try to catch up a little on missed handicaps thus far this year. It was a sprint run over 6 furlongs for 3 year olds and up. There were 20 runners. ChiefofChiefs won with Burmese Waltz in second and Nahaarr third.
Following the opener, there were two Group 2 races for 2 year olds only. The first was the Queen Mary Stakes over 5 furlongs for fillies only with 18 runners going to post. Like all the two year old races this year, finding the winner for the punter has been an arduous task, but all the runners had had a run with 9 of them already gracing the winner’s enclosure. Mark Johnston, who won the race last year, was thought to have one of the more fancied runners in Sands of Time. Another one of particular note was the Aiden O’Brien trained More Beautiful, winner on its one run and her pedigree by Warfront out of a Galileo mare – already a successful cross earlier in the week with Battleground winning the Chesham Stakes. The normal style of Wesley Ward from the USA with his runner Campanelle rushing to the front dumped for this race, Frankie Dettori rode a tactical patient race to deliver the win coming through on the outside beating Sacred in second with Caroline Dale in third.
The Coventry Stakes (Group 2) was for the colts only over 6 furlongs. 15 runners took their chance, and again for 2 year olds only. Prediction of the winner would be an interesting task! Another Mark Johnston trained colt Qaader was heavily fancied, mainly no doubt as he was ridden by the inform and leading jockey of the meeting thus far Jim Crowley. Another of interest was the O’Brien trained Admiral Nelson, Aiden’s only runner in the race. Didn’t matter who the fancied runners were, this victory was taken by Nando Perrado, a Clive Cox trained colt ridden by Adam Kirby. The horse was sent off at 150 to 1. The biggest odds of any horse to win at the Royal Meeting ever!!!At the furlong marker, the winner managed to break out from a wall of horses running down the middle of the course. In second was Qaader and Saieqa was third.
The main course of today’s action comprised three Group 1 races, the first being The Coronation Stakes for 3 year old fillies only over a mile. There were 7 runners with six of them run already this term. The only one not to have run was Alpine Star trained by Jessica Harrington who could be anything, but Quadrilateral (3rd in the 1000 Guineas) and Run Wild have both impressed on their racecourse re-appearance. Another who card was marked was Sharing, trained in the USA by Graham Motion and was a 2019 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile winner. In the event, Run Wild took off in the lead leaving a wall of horses in a straight line at the furlong marker. This gave Dettori, riding the unraced, this term, Alpine Star the chance to come down the outside of the other runners to take the race quite easily. In second was the American horse Sharing with Quadrilateral coming in third.
The colts version came next with seven runners, again a 1 mile race for 3 year olds only, The St James’ Palace Stakes Group 1. The talk before the off was of Pinatubo who was unbeaten until his re-appearance in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket where he wa Ps surprisingly beaten into third place. He was expected to make amends today with some ease. Unfortunately the result was a second beating for the juvenile wonder horse. Aiden O’Brien had three in the race and they ran a tactical race to try to take and stay in front. However, this tactic did not work well and allowed Frankie Dettori to come through on the John Gosden trained Palace Pier to win. Pinatubo seemed to run out of petrol at the end have got himself into the lead, but ending in second with the best of the O’Brien trio Wichita in third.
For many, The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, another Group 1 was the feature race of the day. Run over 6 furlongs for 4 year olds and up, only 3 of the ten runners had been seen out this term. Trained in Ireland by Denis Hogan, Sceptical was an obvious choice as he had already won three times this season, his latest win, a listed contest at Naas in Ireland. It was great to see the old favourite The Tin Man, an 8 year old gelding back to take his chance once again for James Fanshawe. Although this was the feature race if the day, it was a weaker contest than normal. Sceptical was sent off favourite, and is a rags to riches horse having been brought last autumn by trainer Denis Hogan for only £2,800. In the final furlong, a wall of horses vied for the win, Dream of Dreams, Hello Youmzain ridden by Kevin Stot and Sceptical all in a line. It was Hello Youmzain, just, to take the win for the young jockey winning his first ever Group 1 and first win at Royal Ascot. Sceptical ran out of steam at the very end and was third just behind Dream of Dreams. The winner is trained by Kevin Ryan.
With all the Group races of the week now run, the seventh race of the day was the Wokingham Handicap for 3 year olds and up with 22 runners taking their place for the another annual cavalry charge up the Ascot straight over six furlongs. In this race, they came down the straight in two distinct groups with the far group looking to get the better, and so it was Hey Jonesy just won ahead of Summer Ghand rushing home at the end on the near side in second and Spanish City in third. The winner was trained again by Kevin Ryan and ridden by Kevin Stot – what a time to ride your first two winners at the Royal Meeting?
The final race of the meeting was the traditional last race of Royal Ascot, The Queen Alexandra Stakes for stayers over 2 miles 5 ½ furlongs, the longest race in the British flat calendar. Ten runners went to post. Who Dares Wins appeared to be the one to beat before the off, trained by already successful trainer of the week Alan King. They were all tightly grouped until the final turn. In the straight a tussle between Who Dares Wins and The Grand Visir trained by Ian Williams. Who Dares Wins won with Tom Marquand riding – his first ever win at The Royal Meeting. The Grand Visir kept second with Mukha Magic was third.
The leading owners of the week was Sheik Hamden Al Maktoum and the winning trainer was John Gosden and winning jockey, of course Frankie Dettori. It was great racing with some records being broken throughout the week with first time wins for some trainer’s and jockey’s . We had our doubts about Royal Ascot being run at all with this dreadful Covid-19 epidemic, but we would be the first to say how wrong we were and what a great job the Ascot authorities and BHA did.
Hopefully, in 2021 we will all be back to normal and Royal Ascot will be able to have all those wonderful traditions which makes it so British.