Ireland's Sole Power defends King Stand crown at Royal Ascot
Sole Power's devastating acceleration came to the fore once again as the brilliant sprinter secured back-to-back victories in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The seven-year-old was delivered to take the five-furlong Group One right on the line by Johnny Murtagh in a pulsating finish 12 months ago and Richard Hughes was the man in the saddle this time around, partnering Eddie Lynam's speedball for the first time.
Hughes rode a typically patient race and it was clear Sole Power (5-1) was still full of running entering the closing stages.
Once unleashed on the far side of the track, the response was immediate as he quickened up fantastically to run to the lead and settle matters in a few strides.
Front-running outsider Stepper Point was a length and a quarter away in second, with heavily-supported favourite Hot Streak a neck further back in third.
The winner was among the leading contenders having shown his well-being with victory in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in early May, but few could have expected such an authoritative victory.
Hughes deliberately took his mount back when the stalls opened and appeared confident he had all bases covered at all times.
His potent turn of foot took him clear in the final strides and he was ultimately well on top at the line.
Stepper Point (50-1) showed blistering pace from the off and turned in an excellent effort.
Hot Streak looked a three-year-old destined for the top of the sprinting ranks when taking the Temple Stakes at Haydock last month and although he came up short, Kevin Ryan's pride and joy was far from disgraced and there will be another day for the youngster.
Hughes said: "I'm glad Johnny Murtagh retired as he's been giving this horse great rides all his life!
"I spoke at length with him about how to ride him and he said he'd be made for me.
"Things didn't all go right as I had to pull to the outside which you normally don't like doing, but I had that much horse under me I could have gone around them anywhere.
"He was the best horse, it's as simple as that, I had loads of room, I was about eight lengths off the pace at halfway and he was just waiting for me to press the button."
Lynam said: "He was the best horse in the race, experience has won him it.
"This horse has been lucky because he's never had a well-known trainer but he's always had a top-class jockey.
"That was his 17th run in a Group One and he'll have his 18th on Saturday (in the Diamond Jubilee)."
Willie Muir said of Stepper Point: "I thought he was going to be my second Royal Ascot winner but then I thought 'where's Sole Power because he beats me every time'.
"We've been beaten three times by Sole Power, but we ran against Hot Streak in the Palace House and we were a head behind him so I was quite surprised he was 3-1 and we were 50s. I don't worry about that any more.
"He ran flat both times he ran in France but over the last three days he's been telling me 'I'm back'. I suppose he deserves a break but the owner's not afraid to run anywhere. He could go for the King George at Goodwood or maybe the Nunthorpe."
Ryan said of Hot Streak: "He's run great, I'm proud of the horse and he has turned up again today. There's a lot to look forward to for the rest of the year.
"Jamie (Spencer) gave him a super ride, he quickened up and hasn't been beaten too far.
"There could be a different result later in the year, he's a top horse. I'll have to speak to the owners but I'd imagine he could go to the July Cup."