Named after the Tudor Royal residence, the inaugural running of the St James’s Palace Stakes in 1834 was a walkover for the Derby winner Plenipotentiary. This race features the best milers from the Classic generation, often attracting horses that have run in the English, French and Irish 2,000 Guineas, with a succession of famous winners from Brigadier Gerard to Giant’s Causeway.
Leading from pillar to post under Australian Kerrin McEvoy, who was deputising for the suspended Frankie Dettori, Shamardal, last year’s champion two-year-old, had only run nine days ago when he scrambled home in the French Derby at Chantilly, having previously taken the French Guineas. Shamardal remains unbeaten on turf.
“Now we must go for the Eclipse against Motivator,” beamed Sheikh Mohammed, who heads up the Godolphin operation. “I think it would be good for racing for the two horses to meet at Sandown. At a mile and a quarter, I think Shamardal might be able to meet Motivator. But Motivator is a very good horse.”
Once the field had swung into the straight McEvoy quickened the pace and soon had the entire field in trouble, winning by three lengths. Ad Valorem came home best of the others.
It was only an hour before the race that Sheikh Mohammed and his brother Sheikh Maktoum decided to withdraw Dubawi and switch McEvoy to Shamardal in place of Kevin Darley because of the ground conditions.
“If the rain had come we would have run Dubawi,” added Sheikh Mohammed. “Now Dubawi will wait for the better ground and maybe races like the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville.
“We were not worried about running Shamardal so soon after winning the French Derby because he has been in very good form. He is tough.”
Simon Crisford, racing manager to Godolphin, said: “We knew were taking a risk running Shamardal so soon. Kerrin is always very calm and was ice cool today. But Frankie is our number one, we missed him today as he sat on the beach in Sardinia.”
He added: “Shamardal has continued to progress with each race and today he fulfilled our expectations and more.”
McEvoy said: “Shamardal is uncomplicated and an easier horse to ride than Dubawi and I was glad that Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Maktoum made the decision they did.
“Of course, it was tough on Frankie to miss this meeting but he has been a great help to me and I am going to give him a call to see what he thinks. I know he will be pleased for me and the team.
“There was pressure today because it was such an important race. But that a part of being a jockey that I like. A bit of pressure brings out the best in you.
”Shamardal was the easiest winner of a Group race I have ridden.”
Founded in 1840, the Queen Anne Stakes commemorates the monarch who established racing at Ascot in 1711. Run as the Trial Stakes until 1929, the Queen Anne Stakes was first awarded Group Three status in 1971, becoming Group Two in 1984. The Queen Anne Stakes achieved the highest three-year average rating of any Group Two race in Britain from 1999 to 2002 according to the International Classifications. Elevated to Group One status for the first timein 2003, the race attracts the season’s leading older milers from across Europe.
VALIXIR IS MAGNIFIQUE
It was a first Royal Ascot, and York, victory for jockey Christophe Soumillon, who was delighted with the success.
“I wanted to follow Rakti more and was waiting, waiting and waiting and when I wanted to take a breath he wanted to go on so I came too early,” said Soumillon.
“I had two or three bumps from the horse on my outside when turning for home which upset his balance a bit but really it was a perfect race. It’s my first winner at York and Royal Ascot and I’m happy to see the French horses do so well today as it means our horses in France are good.
“Before the race I didn’t think about winning because I knew that Rakti was an unbelievable horse, that’s why I was so excited after passing the post and threw my whip into the crowd.
“I’d like to ride more horses in England, like (Olivier) Peslier, and another year I’d like to be back riding every day at Royal Ascot with four or five rides each day. As it is I’m due to come back here on Saturday to ride one for Jeremy Noseda (Balmont).”
The winner was part of the late Jean-Luc Lagardere’s bloodstock empire, bought by the Aga Khan earlier in the year.
The owner added: “It has worked out very well and I had never had horses with Andre Fabre before, but he is an oustanding trainer.
“We were worried about coming to the front too soon, which happened, as he is a horse that has to be held up. Christophe said that he found himself in front earlier than he expected.”
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes -
Wednesday 15th June
AZAMOUR DIGS DEEP
Lauded to the skies by his owner-breeder - “we kept him in training at four because his three-year-old career was not a true reflection on his ability, and we thought there was more improvement to come” - Azamour took time to find full throttle but was ultimately well on top at the end.
Winning trainer John Oxx said: “Azamour did not look that happy early on, but the ground has become chopped up near the far rail, so Johnny (Murtagh) brought him up the centre, where it is less worn.
“We know that Azamour stays and that he always runs to the line in his races, and Johnny was always confident that he would pick up the leader.
“He had a nice target to aim at, but he was pricking his ears at the winning post and won handy enough in the end.
“The Eclipse is only 17 days away and would come too quick, but we are keen to try Azamour over a mile and a half this year, and it is a question of whether we ask him the question in the King George at Newbury or wait for the Arc.”
Azamour was chopped from 10-1 to 6-1 for the King George by Paddy Power - Motivator is their 7-4 favourite - and the same firm slashed his odds for the Arc from 16-1 to 10-1.
The Gold Cup - Thursday 16th June
WESTERNER ENDS DROUGHT FOR FRANCE
Wildenstein, who can still vividly recall his 11-8 favourite Buckskin being a beaten favourite in this race 27 years ago, was clearly casting thoughts back to his late father Daniel when he said: “My family have waited a long time for this day. Father used to tell me about the Gold Cup when I was a little boy, and this is one of the races that we have wanted to win most.
“Westerner is a stronger horse than he was when he was beaten by Papineau in last year’s Gold Cup, and the ground was also that bit softer which helped.
“He has just the one burst of acceleration, and Oliver (Peslier) gave him a wonderful ride. Last year they were in front too soon and saw too much daylight, but we would have been disappointed if we had been beaten today.
“Westerner has more speed than Buckskin, and now we will drop him back in distance, He is entered in the King George, but I am not sure Newbury would be his course, and if we don’t go there we will head to Germany for the Grand Prix de Baden-Baden.
“That is six wins in a row for Westerner, who does not need the ear plugs any more. Elie Lellouche had him spot on today - he was trained to perfection.”
The Coronation Stakes - Friday
“THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN”
The filly belongs to Martin Shwartz, a New Yorker who now lives in Florida and describes himself as “a speculator”. He was hugely impressed with his filly’s display, saying: “I have had my share of thrills in my life, but this is right at the top of the mountain, along with seeing my children born.”
Schwartz, who has seven horses in training here and in the USA, has now won three Group 1 races in three weeks and feels that he is “really on a roll.”
And as he has a mare who is in foal (with a colt) to this filly’s sire Giant’s Causeway, he thinks his luck could not be better.
Maids Causeway got home by only a short head after a tremendous battle through the final furlong, encouraging her trainer to say: “she is tough, really tough and brave and I would not mind trying a mile and a quarter with her.” Hills mentioned the Champion Stakes in that context.
Nor was Hills concerned that Maids Causeway had sweated up before the race. There is nothing wrong with that, which is normal for her,” he said.
The winning filly did not come into the winner’s enclosure on veterinary advice and her jockey reported that “she lost a shoe just before the finish and went lame on me.
“We got into a real battle with Jimmy (Fortune on Karen’s Caper) and we looked like losing it, so I asked my filly for once last effort and she came up for me.
“When she won the Rockfel last year that was just about the tightest finish that I have been involved in, but this was as close as that.”
The Golden Jubilee Stakes - Saturday
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE AT LAST
“It means an awful lot to me, to come back here and win a prize like this,” said Oughton, who trained at Findon in Sussex, where his father Alan and mother Diane trained before him, for five years before going to Hong Kong in 1987.
He bought Cape Of Good Hope privately out of David Elsworth’s stable as a back end three-year-old four years ago on behalf of Ron Carstairs, who saw the horse win his first five races but sadly died a couple of years ago. “He would have loved this moment and we feel that he is still with us,” said Carstairs’ widow Patricia and son Guy.
Last year Cape Of Good Hope ran in the same two races, the King’s Stand and the Golden Jubilee, and Oughton feels that he was a bit unlucky to be beaten in the latter. “He got a bit of a bump about two furlongs out and was beaten only a neck,” he said, having explained that he brought the horse to England to avoid having to take on Hong Kong star Silent Witness. “There were just no races for him out there unless we ran against Silent Witness and so we decided to come to England with him.
Last year Cape Of Good Hope followed his Ascot efforts by running in the July Cup at Newmarket, but that is not on the agenda this time round.
“He will be going back to Hong Kong on Monday and have a break there before going to Japan for the big sprint there in October,” said Oughton. “Then he will run in the International Sprint in Hong Kong in December and then maybe go back to Australia again where he was successful in February.
“He is amazingly tough. He has been at it for a long time and been all round the world, to Japan, to Australia and to England twice and he takes it all in his stride.”
The winner’s rider Mick Kinane said: “it turned into a bit of a battle over the last 100 yards but fortunately he was up to the task. I rode this horse in the first leg of the Global Sprint Challenge when we finished third and because of other commitments could not ride him when he won the second leg. I had committed to Somnus for the season and David was very happy that I could ride this horse because I knew the horse so well. I knew he’d come on a lot for his run on Tuesday, and it all worked out well.”
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