Integral sets record in Duke of Cambridge; Jersey upholds classic form
A high-class renewal of the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes followed The Fugue's course record-setting performance in the Prince of Wales's at Royal Ascot on Wednesday with yet another record falling to the wayside.
Integral, trained by Sir Michael Stoute for owner/breeders David and Patricia Thompson of Newmarket's Cheveley Park Stud, won by two lengths from French raider L'amour de Ma Vie in a record-breaking 1:37.09 for a mile on the good-to-firm going.
Integral gave Stoute his fourth renewal in the race, and his 69th overall Royal Ascot winner, after tracking the strong early pace with Ryan Moore aboard. The duo took off with a furlong remaining and edged clear in the final yards.
The winner has been placed at the top level, and when asked if the Dalakhani filly could match her dam, Echelon, and win in that company, Moore simply stated, "She is a Group 1 filly."
Chris Richardson, who manages the Thompsons' stud, was able to reel off other homebred winners that have landed the Duke of Cambridge race in recent years, namely Spacious, Nannina and Peeress.
"She's a very talented filly. There's not a lot of her, but she has a huge heart and has been working very well at home. Ryan was suitably impressed," Richardson praised Integral. "She's in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, but we'll have to see how she is before making any decisions. Echelon has other offspring by Galileo, Medicean, Shamardal and is back in foal to Dalakhani, so there is plenty to look forward to."
The Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes took place before the Prince of Wales's and, though it didn't produce a record-setting performance, that didn't matter to winner Anthem Alexander's connections.
The juvenile daughter of Starspangledbanner failed to sell when bidding halted at 48,000 guineas at public auction last year and Anthem Alexander's breeder, Noel O'Callaghan, had little choice but to put her in training with Eddie Lynam.
Though not a winner in the sales ring the chestnut miss proved best against 20 rivals in the Queen Mary with Pat Smullen holding the reins. Anthem Alexander was made the favorite in Wednesday's five-furlong sprint following a seven-length maiden score at Tipperary on June 5, but broke slow from the gate. She quickly made up ground and took command a furlong out, turning back the challenge of Tiggy Wiggy to score by a neck in a final time of :59.15.
"Maybe I was looking for too much money (in regards to the reserve)," O'Callaghan offered about why Anthem Alexander didn't sell. "Winning here is special with a homebred filly, and she has two yearling half-sisters at home -- a yearling by Dream Ahead and a foal by Acclamation.
"To be fair to Eddie Lynam, after two months, he was always exceptionally positive about this filly -- he thinks that she is very good. He can certainly train sprinters, so it's hopefully onwards and upwards.
"It's my first Royal Ascot winner - I have had plenty of runners but no winners," O'Callaghan added. "It's hard to win here and, when you win here, you have got to appreciate it and enjoy it."
"Natural ability has got her home in front today. She's got the right constitution, is a big strong mare and she traveled over well from Ireland. She's very well bred -- we'll certainly enjoy her," Lynam stated. "She's the real deal and she will get better. Noel O'Callaghan was very kind in giving her to me and he was very brave because everyone was trying to buy her off him. I am delighted for him because, when you refuse money for a horse, you need a bit of luck."
Lynam is noted as a trainer of sprinters and he joked, "I'll keep her to five or six furlongs -- after all I can only train sprinters. I should think the Cherry Hinton Stakes (at Newmarket next month) will be next."
Smullen doubled up in first two races on the second day of Royal Ascot with Anthem Alexander. He started off the day with a one-length victory aboard Mustajeeb in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes for trainer Dermot Weld.
"It's great. It's just so tough here, this is the big stage and we've got a lot of horses but you go through a lot of horses to get horses good enough for Ascot," he said. "I just had to be a bit patient. This is everything. Royal Ascot is the pinnacle, to ride two winners here in one day one after the other is a pretty good feeling."
Weld welcomed his 16th Royal Ascot winner when Hamdan Al Maktoum's Mustajeeb defeated 22 rivals in the Jersey. The Nayef sophomore opened 2013 with a victory in the Amethyst at Leopardstown before finishing third in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas. On Wednesday, he chased the leader in the Jersey before taking over passing the quarter-pole and turning back all challengers to score in a final time of 1:24:54 going seven furlongs.
The John Gosden-trained Muwaary was second, giving the owner a one-two finish in the race.
"He is a very genuine colt, tough and honest, and a very progressive horse," Weld praised Mustajeeb. "He won his Group race against older horses at Leopardstown over a mile and he came home very well -- he was the only three-year-old in the field.
"He is very consistent and was at the top of his game today. I have the highest regard for (Guineas and St James's Palace winner) Kingman and you never know in racing what may happen. Today was our day while (Tuesday) was Kingman's day. It is possible they could meet again later in the year.
"It is great for Sheikh Hamdan to own the first and the second and this happened in the Epsom Oaks recently when (Gosden-trained) Taghrooda beat Tarfasha who I saddled. John won then and I won today!
"I will speak with Sheikh Hamdan about what he wants to do next. I expect we will go back over a mile with Mustajeeb -- I feel he is a miler. This colt has a future. He is very adaptable and will go on any ground but he appreciates fast ground. We thought that he would win today and he did it well."
Angus Gold, racing manager to Hamdan Al Maktoum, commented, "Fair play to Mr. Weld. He was second in the Oaks to Mr. Gosden, so it is revenge today. I am thrilled for Sheikh Hamdan and both trainers. Both horses came here with classic form, hopefully they are a pair of improving three-year-olds, and they have shown their class today.
"I was talking to Pat (Smullen) before and he said Mustajeeb could never really get going on the ground in Ireland and it stretched his stamina a bit. They have always believed in this horse and it is great to see him do it.
"We will go and think about where to go next. This was a big step up. I find the Jersey is almost as competitive as the Guineas these days. I don't think that he will go any further than a mile, so he wouldn't be one for the Irish Champion. We will have a look at all of the top mile races and see."
In the remaining two races at Royal Ascot on Wednesday, Muteela produced a gutsy performance in the final race of day two to win the one-mile listed Sandringham Handicap by a short-head while Jamie Osborne pulled off one of the training feats of the year by producing Field of Dream to win the Royal Hunt Cup first time out this season at 20-1.
Muteela was always prominent in the Sandringham and led a furlong out. Despite being challenged on all sides, the daughter of Dansili battled gamely to score and give both her trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Paul Hanagan, their first winner of the meeting.
Field of Dream, a seven-year-old Oasis Dream gelding, last raced 263 days ago when 12th in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket. He was sixth in the Royal Hunt Cup in 2013 and fourth in the mile charge down Ascot's straight mile the previous year. Adam Kirby was in the irons Wednesday as the veteran outran his odds to score by 1 1/4 lengths.
With the conditions rated good-to-firm on Wednesday, Chris Stickels, Ascot's Clerk of the Course, is putting four millimeters of water on the whole course for Thursday.
"We have had a very good day with terrific racing but the ground has continued to dry so we are going to water," Stickels explained. "We are putting four millimeters on the whole course as the forecast indicates very minimal rain before racing tomorrow -- a shower amounting to less than a millimeter. In light of that and the very drying conditions we have had this afternoon, we are going to put four millimeters on everything."
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