Saturday 18 November 2017

Soumillon denies Found, but Moore still on cloud nine

Christophe Soumillon celebrates after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot
Christophe Soumillon celebrates after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot

Marcus Armytage

Christophe Soumillon is a paid-up member of the global elite club of jockeys, but it took him until yesterday to register a first victory on one of the most famous of racing stages as he deprived Ryan Moore.

The effervescent Belgian does have one Royal winner to his name – but in the Queen Anne a decade ago when the meeting was staged at York – and yesterday he demonstrated the skills which have earned him major wins in almost every significant racing nation.

Flamboyant and never short of confidence, Soumillon is more French racing’s Frankie Dettori than its Moore, and once pulled off one of the most audacious rides of all time in his country’s equivalent of the Champion Hurdle. Here he was wearing the familiar silks of the Aga Khan in the Coronation Stakes, the owner having sacked him in 2009 after he reportedly made disparaging comments about trainer Andre Fabre’s height, before being rehired last year.

Soumillon had to wait and wait again for the gap to come for Ervedya, which won her domestic Guineas, potentially conceding a decisive advantage to the otherwise unstoppable Moore aboard Found. However, she moved up another gear and stuck her neck out just in front of the 13/8 favourite.

Soumillon suggested there could have been many other winners on this soil, and said: “It’s a great meeting, unfortunately I don’t have the horses to come here with all the time.”

“The competition is very high. If you’re not riding for Aidan O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute, or Mr (the late Sir Henry) Cecil, it’s hard to make it.”

Charlie Hills had seemed a bit embarrassed when his winner on Wednesday came at the expense of his father, but there was no need for any apologising after the explosive Muhaarar took the inaugural Commonwealth Cup.

It is approaching four years since the 36-year-old Hills took over from father Barry, who renewed his licence following the untimely death of his other son John, and the apprentice had defeated the master by half a length in the Jersey Stakes.

Muhaarar (10/1) was the mount of the owner’s reliable number two rider Dane O’Neill in a race which had attracted the cream of three-year-old sprinters and it was surprising that one of the lower-profile runners took it in such style, by just under four lengths from Limato. “It looked a proper race as well – any one of eight or 10 could have won,” said Hills.

Two of the weighing room’s senior figures had a frustrating start to the week in common but were relieved to have hit a winning note. Richard Hughes is soon to retire, while Jamie Spencer reneged on his decision to hang up his boots last year. Both Irishmen used their famed patience in the saddle to fine effect.

For reigning champion Hughes at his final Royal Ascot, there had been two seconds from a busy week, but the eclipse of his banker Ivawood in the Jersey Stakes had been deflating.

Aboard Illuminate in the Albany, he would have seen the leader Frankie Dettori aboard Laxfield Road as a speck in the distance at one stage, but the 4/1 favourite was the first one home. Asked if he would miss riding, he replied: “I don’t mind. I’ve ridden 30 winners here. If I want to train 30 here I’d better hurry up.” That total reached 31 later on thanks to Arab Dawn in the Duke Of Edinburgh.

David Simcock looked a nervous wreck even after Balios (3/1) had delivered him a first Royal Ascot winner in the King Edward VII Stakes. He had asked for “a brave ride” from Spencer and that is exactly what he got.  (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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