Lynam strikes blow for the small stable
Meath handler's stunning Ascot treble an awesome display of Power
A pair of individuals who specialise in contrasting areas of expertise brought another incredible week for Irish trainers in Royal Ascot to a breathtaking climax on Saturday.
Slade Power benefited from a typically no-nonsense Wayne Lordan steer to claim a famous Diamond Jubilee triumph for Eddie Lynam, before Pique Sous excelled under a similarly decisive Ryan Moore drive to take the concluding Queen Alexandra Stakes for Willie Mullins.
The win for the 7/2 favourite Slade Power was an incredible third success of the week for Lynam, the newly-crowned sprint king who finished third in the Ascot trainers' table behind Michael Stoute and John Gosden.
Between them, Stoute and Gosden saddled 32 runners in totalling eight winners.
Lynam sent over just four horses, so it was a simply remarkable feat to plunder a haul that included the two marquee sprints, Sole Power having got the ball rolling with a signature burst of acceleration in the King's Stand on Tuesday.
Anthem Alexander's teak-tough display under Pat Smullen in Wednesday's Queen Mary set up the treble, which Slade Power completed with aplomb.
Lynam's fourth Group One success, Saturday's win was the Dunshaughlin, Co Meath-based whiz's first at the highest level beyond five furlongs, as Sole Power has yet to win over six.
All being well, the two Sabena Power-owned speedballs will now be allowed to clash in next month's July Cup.
While Sole Power is still the better horse, his record of 0-7 over six and an inability to show his best on slow ground would make it an intriguing encounter against his more versatile home-bred stablemate.
Whatever happens, one or both are sure to play prominent roles in the three remaining Group One sprints in England, and they will continue to highlight the anomaly of there not being a single blue-chip event for them – or Maarek, Gordon Lord Byron and Due Diligence – to contest at home.
For a long time, we didn't have the depth of quality to justify a championship Group One over five or six furlongs in Ireland.
However, we do now, so it would be a shame if it were to become a situation that doesn't get rectified before they are all retired – a fate that Power's son Paddy suggested would await Slade Power later this term due to his new-found stallion potential.
When you consider the Irish Group Ones and – even more so – Grade One jump races that don't merit their status in any shape or form, the lack of a marquee sprint is especially lamentable.
Lynam's wife Aileen missed Sole Power's King's Stand win last year after fracturing her neck and back in a gallops fall, and he suffered a heart attack only last August.
In that context, his achievements at the illustrious Berkshire festival take on cathartic proportions.
After Saturday's coup, 52-year-old Lynam, a brilliantly witty character, quipped dryly of his wife's 2013 absence: "When you're married to a fella like me, you don't expect to get back the next year and win again."
It is a testament to his skill that they did, and that they returned with interest.
If you factor in Slade Power's Champions Day win last October, Lynam's two-year Ascot yield is 5-10, a ratio matched at the royal gala by Mullins, who is 3-6 there since 2012 after Pique Sous' 11/4 win.
The champion jumps trainer masterminded a rare double when saddling Simenon to take both the Ascot Stakes and the Queen Alexandra in 2012, and went gallingly close to thwarting Estimate with the same horse in the 2013 Gold Cup.
For someone with such a pristine bumper record, it is maybe no surprise that he does so well when he switches his concentration to endurance races on the Flat.
He won an Ebor with Sesenta in 2009, and Simenon was a gallant fourth in the 2013 Melbourne Cup. This Saturday, he could turn Pique Sous out under a penalty in Newcastle's Northumberland Plate, another gruelling two-mile marathon. Mullins' bread and butter, in other words.
IRISH RAIDERS EQUAL RECORD ROYAL HAUL
Pique Sous' emphatic victory in Saturday's finale meant that Irish handlers departed the royal extravaganza with a joint-record eight winners for a third year in a row.
It was only in 2008 that they accumulated eight for a first time. When you consider how double-figure yields have been achieved three times in four years at Cheltenham in March, it is a tribute to the broader profession – which still has large numbers struggling to keep their ships afloat – that they always produce their horses in such mean condition for all the major events across Europe.
Granted, a growing international investment contributes much to the cause. However, Sole and Slade Power, Domination – a first royal winner for Charles Byrnes with his first runner – Ballydoyle's two winners, and Pique Sous are all predominantly Irish-owned, with the latter's Supreme Horse Racing syndicate comprising 190 Irish-based owners to 69 UK residents.
The only one of the octet that falls outside the net is Dermot Weld's stylish Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Jersey Stakes winner Mustajeeb, which paid a further compliment to the mighty Kingman.
Already there is little doubt that we are privy to an exceptional Classic crop, and Kingman's devastating St James's Palace Stakes win was one of the undoubted overall highlights of the week.
The other display that had a virtuoso element to it was Telescope's astounding Hardwicke rout.
It wasn't surprising to hear parallels drawn between him and Michael Stoute's 2010 Hardwicke hero Harbinger, so it makes sense that he is now being considered for next month's King George, with his only previous 12-furlong foray also resulting in a decisive triumph in the 2013 Great Voltigeur.
Pat Smullen, Joseph O'Brien, Wayne Lordan and Fran Berry all showcased their undoubted skill on the grandest of stages.
Over the course of the week, though, Ryan Moore once again made a strong case for being considered the single most exceptional rider of his generation.
Tactically astute, composed under pressure, strong and capable of improvising flawlessly when the occasion demands, his six winners were a veritable exhibition of all-round excellence in the saddle.
The manner in which he seizes control of races when it suits him rather than when circumstances might dictate is phenomenal to watch, a point emphasised by his decision to send Pique Sous on early in the straight despite having had to fight hard to settle him early on.
A lot of good riders wouldn't have had the balls to make that call. He is the most complete Flat jockey riding.
The week's most thrilling spectacle was the Gold Cup. Leading Light's brave success was a record sixth in the showpiece Group One for Aidan O'Brien, and each of the first three home surely posted career-bests, with O'Brien, Stoute and Mick Winters all covering themselves in glory.
As we detailed in Saturday's 'Watching Brief', Magician and Verrazano's efforts in defeat were also part of a generally redemptive week for the Ballydoyle heavyweights, and to that you could also add Due Diligence, which ran a blinder from an unfavourable draw when second to Slade Power.
El Salvador ran well to fill the same berth behind Pique Sous, as did Century when just outpointed by Hartnell in the Queen's Vase.
Despite the champion jockey's subsequent best efforts in the stewards' room, he was never going to get that verdict overturned on Friday.
The rules as they stand are open to criticism for favouring the aggressor and promoting a win-at-all-costs mentality, but Hartnell didn't deserve to be thrown out. He was the best horse on the day and didn't cause enough interference to warrant disqualification.
Another encouraging defeat for an Irish horse at Ascot was that of My Titania. On her belated reappearance, John Oxx's filly raced keenly in a slow-run Coronation Stakes and then got tightened up before keeping on well for fourth, so she remains one to keep on side of for now.
SHIELD 'DQ' A SIMPLE CASE OF HUMAN ERROR
Some punters understandably felt hard done by when Shield was disqualified at Wexford last week.
Robbie Power drove Aidan O'Brien's charge to an eight-length victory over the odds-on favourite Bentelimar in the novice hurdle, but subsequently weighed in 8lb light.
As a rule of thumb over jumps, the theory is that, on good ground, each pound translates to a length on the track.
Had Shield carried its allocated weight, then, the outcome would have been much closer and possibly even different, so for every punter that felt robbed of their 'winnings' on Shield there will be plenty more who backed Bentelimar who will justifiably feel that justice was done.
The inquiry found that Jim O'Brien, the Ballydoyle wizard's brother and representative on the night, had inadvertently left Power's weight cloth in the stable when saddling Shield.
Father of leading British-based jump jockey Tom, O'Brien is a popular and hard-working member of his brother's team, and it was no surprise to read that the stewards commended his honesty after he promptly admitted that he had made an honest mistake in omitting the cloth.
You don't expect such a rudimentary blunder from such a high-profile and proficient operation, but we are all susceptible to human error. A €2,000 fine reflects that it was no more or less than that.
33,000 Eddie Lynam's tax-free return after having £500 on his two stable stars completing the Group One Ascot double at 66/1.
Tweet of the weekend
– Shades of Nathaniel about King Edward VII winner Eagle Top, would love to see him @curraghrace for DDF Irish Derby
Curragh manager Paul Hensey makes a shameless plea for John Gosden's ready Ascot victor to be supplemented for Saturday's Irish Derby tomorrow.