Highland Reel 'courage' seals O'Brien's milestone
A bit like a blank Cheltenham for Willie Mullins, a winnerless Royal Ascot was always going to be a short-term affair for Aidan O'Brien.
After a few near-misses with mainly second strings, the Coolmore juggernaut finally got rolling in the race that mattered yesterday, the Prince of Wales's Stakes.
However, it required another determined effort from their most reliable horse over the past four seasons - and possibly ever - Highland Reel.
Through a combination of pounds, euros, US, Hong Kong and Aussie dollars as well as dirhams, the well-travelled five-year-old was already Coolmore's highest earner before taking his prize-money to just shy of £6m yesterday.
After its success on Tuesday, Godolphin no doubt hoped to put another one over Coolmore and Scottish set off to ensure a strong pace and make it testing enough for their 2/1 favourite, Jack Hobbs. But he never got into it, finishing last, and it was Highland Reel, near the front end all the way under Ryan Moore, which came home best to beat Decorated Knight by 1ƒ lengths, with two lengths back to Ulysses and Queen's Trust fourth.
Renowned as a 12-furlong horse, it was his first Group One win over 10 furlongs for two years.
"He's concrete," said O'Brien, winning his 300th Group One, Flat or National Hunt. "He's passed every test you'd ever wish a thoroughbred to go through since he was two. Every day he turns up in a big race. He's full of courage, tactically very quick and we've travelled him everywhere. Ryan asked him for courage today and he gave it to him.
"He has never lacked pace so we were hoping that courage would come into it over this trip. He is like his sire Galileo, he had so much courage too. Sometimes he gets beat, but if the pace is strong and it comes anywhere near courage then he will be there fighting. The plan was to come here today then come back again for the King George."
Records tumbled all Tuesday but only one fell yesterday: the one held by Sheikh Mohammed for biggest entourage - 40 - in the winner's enclosure as well as a horse. That was smashed after Heartache's comprehensive victory in the Queen Mary by syndicate boss Sam Hoskins and the vast majority of the 75 very happy members of his Hot To Trot Syndicate.
Clive Cox and Adam Kirby have become a potent combination at Ascot in the past few years so there was a lot going for Heartache, the 5/1 second favourite.
But American filly Happy Like A Fool's appearance in the paddock - twice the size of her British counterparts - had done nothing to dissuade her supporters. A lot of her opposition reckoned they would be racing for second and they were right, but only up to a point.
It was handy that Heartache was drawn two doors down from Happy Like A Fool and Kirby was able to track her before taking her on and, as little came to tackle large a furlong and a half out, it was a case of English rose beating American broad.
Heartache showed the greater range of gears, coming home 2ƒ lengths clear of Wesley Ward's filly.
"She's always done everything very easily," said Cox, who landed the King's Stand and Prince of Wales's last year.
"We knew she was nice. Two-year-olds are my passion. To share it with the wonderful Hot To Trot syndicate is great - all manner of people here today who are so buoyed by the experience."
"We've had a lot of winners," said Hoskins, "but this is the filly we've been looking for."
Wesley Ward's wait for a second winner to compliment Lady Aurelia's King's Stand success on Tuesday was not delayed long, though, with Jamie Spencer bringing the 20/1 shot Con Te Partiro from last to first in the Sandringham Handicap.
The victory completed an international look to a day on which French trainers Andre Fabre and Jean-Claude Rouget struck with Le Brivido in the Jersey and Quemah in the Duke of Cambridge respectively, while Zhui Feng's 25/1 victory for Amanda Perrett and Martin Dwyer ensured the bookies also went home happy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)