Wednesday 18 October 2017

Blue flag flies high as Barney Roy downs Churchill

Barney Roy (white cap), with James Doyle up, on the way to winning the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot. Photo: Getty Images
Barney Roy (white cap), with James Doyle up, on the way to winning the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot. Photo: Getty Images

Marcus Armytage

Godolphin enjoyed its best single day at Royal Ascot in years yesterday when Barney Roy won the St James's Palace Stakes and Ribchester the Queen Anne, while Sound And Silence led home a one-two in the Windsor Castle.

A Godolphin resurgence might be taken as overnight in some quarters, but it has been germinating for a couple of years.

The irony of yesterday's treble dose of success will have been lost on either Sheikh Mohammed or John Ferguson, who quit as the operations chief executive a fortnight ago after falling out with one of its trainers, Saeed bin Suroor.

It might have been Sheikh Mohammed's chequebook, but it was Ferguson who stepped in for Barney Roy and Ribchester early in their juvenile careers and, whatever the politics behind his departure, as bloodstock adviser he can leave with his head held pretty high.

Barney Roy duly got his revenge on the 1/2 shot Churchill in the St James's Palace in which Aidan O'Brien's dual Guineas winner was never at the races.

Barney Roy came home under James Doyle a length in front of Lancaster Bomber - a colt O'Brien intimated Churchill would normally pick up and carry. Thunder Snow, another Godolphin colt, was a close third.

Richard Hannon, who had a blank at the meeting in 2016, joked that that was his week done. "We felt he was unlucky in the Guineas," he said. "And if he was unlucky he'd win today and so it proved.

"I have massive respect for Churchill, and I don't think he ran his race, but we were there to take advantage. We won't get another crack at the Guineas but we deliberately brought him here fresh and ready to go."

Ribchester, one of three horses to break a course record yesterday, was drawn on the far side but drifted markedly left-handed when he hit the front.

However, when William Buick pulled his stick through he soon straightened up to beat Mutakayyef and Deauville by one-and-a-quarter lengths and a neck, advancing his claims as Europe's best miler.

For sheer virtuosity, however, nothing matched Lady Aurelia's blitzing of a high-class field over five furlongs in the King's Stand.

The margin may not have been quite as far as last year's Queen Mary - three lengths instead of seven - but the impression was still of a filly in a league of her own as she beat 2016 winner Profitable.

A few big-hitting horses are missing this week, but nobody's presence was more keenly missed than that of Frankie Dettori who, despite riding Shutter Speed in last Sunday's Prix de Diane, had two fractures in his shoulder discovered in a scan yesterday morning.

The first time Johnny Valazquez knew he was replacing Dettori on Lady Aurelia was when he received a text message as he landed at Heathrow at 8.30 in the morning.

"She broke well, settled, travelled well and responded when I asked," he said.

"I'm very sorry for Frankie - he's a good friend - but it's a blessing for me."

The Willie Mullins-trained Thomas Hobson, with Ryan Moore aboard, came from last to first to win the Ascot Stakes. Only Lady Aurelia was more impressive.

Mullins said: "I think we'd like to go to Melbourne (Cup) with him, that's the end game. To have a winner at a Festival like this is magic, as good as Cheltenham any day of the week."

There was a fairytale result in the Coventry Stakes as Richard Spencer's 11/1 shot Rajasinghe emerged victorious in the hands of Stevie Donohoe.

Spencer, saddling just his ninth winner under rules, said: "Words can't describe how I feel, but he's a top horse and we've liked him from day one.

"Two years ago I broke my back in a hunter chase fall at Warwick, so from that to be standing here is just amazing." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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