Lady Aurelia, Ribchester and Barney Roy delivered rousing performances and Godolphin won three of six races as the 2017 Royal Ascot meet began Tuesday.
After thrashing opponents in the 2016 Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot, Lady Aurelia returned with another dominant performance in the King’s Stand (G1), rallying from just off the pace to score by three easy lengths in the 5-furlong affair. Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton and Peter Leidel own the daughter of Scat Daddy, who missed the course record by .01.
The superb 3-year-old filly gave trainer Wesley Ward his eighth victory at the Royal Meeting and was guided by John Velazquez, who replaced an injured Frankie Dettori in the irons.
“That was awesome,” Ward said. “Lady Aurelia is a very special filly. You never know (what will happen). This is a Group 1 with some of the fastest horses in the world, and to duplicate what she did last year, she is a once in a lifetime horse.
“She loves it over here. We look forward to a really big summer and then the Breeders’ Cup. The owners are so excited. It is wonderful for American racing.”
Winner of the Prix Morny (G1) in France last August, Lady Aurelia sustained her lone setback came when finishing third in September’s Cheveley Park (G1) at Newmarket in her juvenile finale. The bay opened her sophomore campaign with a convincing win in the April 15 Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland and she improved her career line to 6-5-0-1.
Last year’s winner, Profitable, finished three lengths behind in second, with another head back to the well-backed Marsha in third.
Ribchester kicked off the day with a course record-setting performance in the Queen Anne (G1), completing the one-mile straightaway in 1:36.60 as he drove to a 1 ¼-length decision as the solid favorite. William Buick was up for Godolphin and Richard Fahey, who described the 4-year-old son of Iffraaj as the best horse he’s ever trained afterward.
Mutakayyef rallied well for runner-up honors while never seriously threatening the winner, edging third-placer Deauville by a head.
Ribchester was exiting a facile tally in the May 20 Lockinge (G1) at Newbury and opened the year with a third in the Dubai Turf (G1). He’s now a four-time stakes winner, including the Prix Jacques Le Marois (G1) at Deauville last August, and the Irish-bred colt’s overall record now reads 12-5-3-3.
“William doesn’t feel that the tank is empty with him and that he is getting stronger the whole time,” Fahey said. “Mentally, he is also getting better which is a great attitude to have in a racehorse – he is starting to think he is good.”
“I heard he broke the track record, but I believe he has more to give,” Buick added. “He’s a pretty awesome horse, he travels so well and sees it out so well, and Richard and Sheikh Mohammed have done so well with him. He’s a joy to ride and always gives his best. He is a jockey’s dream. This is the biggest week in our sport, and to wear the royal blue of Godolphin for Sheikh Mohammed here is fantastic.”
Barney Roy provided Godolphin with its second victory of the day when surging to a one-length triumph in the St James’s Palace (G1) for 3-year-olds. Conditioned by Richard Hannon and ridden by James Doyle, the Excelebration colt turned the tables on the heavily favored Churchill, a multiple classic victor who had a seven-race win streak snapped while struggling home a well-beaten fourth.
The lightly-raced winner was exiting his first setback, a troubled second to Churchill in the English 2000 Guineas (G1), and Barney Roy has now captured 3-of-4 starts. The bay English-bred broke his maiden at Haydock Park last September and opened this year with a runaway tally in the Greenham (G3) at Newbury in late April.
“We felt he was unlucky in the Guineas (when stumbling in the dip), and if he was unlucky he would win today, and so it proved,” Hannon said. “We have massive respect for Churchill, and I don’t think he has run his true race today, but we were there to take advantage.”
“That is only the fourth run of his life and he is still learning,” Doyle added. “In my mind, I just wanted to give him plenty of time to pick up and allow for that inexperience to kick in and he straightened up well and galloped all the way to the line.”
Doyle loves being part of the Godolphin team.
“Today means everything,” the jockey said. “This is why I joined the team to ride big winners like this. To get one on a day like today with Sheikh Mohammed here makes me feel very proud. It’s very important and there’s a great sense of pride to ride him a proper Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot.”
Barney Roy completed the one-mile distance around a bend in a course record 1:37.
Lancaster Bomber held second after being passed by the winner and the Godolphin-owned Thunder Snow was another head back in third.
Godolphin completed the hat trick with Sound and Silence, who edged stablemate Roussel by a neck to win the Windsor Castle for 2-year-olds at 5-furlongs. Buick was up for Charlie Appleby on the English-bred son of Exceed and Excel.
Tuesday’s other winners were Rajasinghe and Thomas Hobson.
Rajasinghe, an Irish-bred colt by Choisir, got up to win the 6-furlong Coventry (G2) for juvenile males by a head over Headway. Ridden by Stevie Donohoe, the Richard Spencer trainee established a new two-year-old Ascot record for six furlongs (1:12.39).
Thomas Hobson will aim toward the Melbourne Cup (G1) after capturing the 2 ½-mile Ascot Handicap for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ryan Moore. The 7-year-old Halling gelding rolled to a six-length decision as the 4-1 favorite.
The attendance was 44,235 on the first day of Royal Ascot.
For the complete running order, with post times, visit the special Royal Ascot page. The free Brisnet international PPs are accessible here, and don’t miss the jam-packed betting guide. More info is available as well at the TwinSpires.com blog.