The curtain came down Saturday on Royal Ascot, but not before a brilliant encore by the meeting’s brightest equine star.
Godolphin’s Blue Point, who successfully defended his title in the King’s Stand (G1) on Tuesday, had no problem with the quick turnaround to add the Diamond Jubilee (G1) in an amazing double. Deep closer Dream of Dreams came charging late, but the favorite held on by a head. Trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by James Doyle, Blue Point clocked six furlongs in 1:11.42, just off his own course record of 1:11.05.
“I have never met a horse as tough as this – he is unbelievable,” Doyle said. “We definitely went quicker today than in the King’s Stand (at five furlongs) and must have posted some serious fractions.”
To put Blue Point’s achievement in historical perspective, the last horse to sweep Royal Ascot’s marquee sprints was Australia’s Choisir (in 2003 when the King’s Stand was a Group 2), and you have to go back to 1920 to find the prior dual winner, Diadem.
“It’s very sporting of Sheikh Mohammed to allow me to run this horse back so quickly,” Appleby said, “but it is also what racing is all about – letting these horses do what they are good at.”
Precisely because Blue Point is best down a straightaway, not a turning track, Appleby said on the NBC broadcast that he was “very unlikely” to take up the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) berth earned in the “Win and You’re In” Diamond Jubilee.
The day kicked off in grand style for the same Godolphin team as Pinatubo smashed the juvenile course record in the seven-furlong Chesham. Now unbeaten in three starts, the Appleby pupil left Aidan O’Brien hotpot Lope Y Fernandez standing in 1:25.73.
Pinatubo is by the same sire as Blue Point, Darley stallion Shamardal, who later racked up a triple on the card with the Roger Varian-trained Cape Byron. Bet down to favoritism in the Wokingham, Cape Byron carried the highest weight to victory (135 pounds) in this six-furlong heritage handicap since Baltic King toted 136 pounds in 2006.
Cape Byron’s connections were celebrating a double since Defoe, likewise a Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum colorbearer, earlier captured the Hardwicke (G2). The Dalakhani gelding was following up on his career-best score in the Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom last out, again quickening well with regular rider Andrea Atzeni to beat the remarkable Nagano Gold (more on him below). Defoe is bound for the July 27 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) over the same course and 1 1/2-mile distance, and a potential clash with fellow Royal Ascot winners Crystal Ocean and Japan.
Red-hot rider Danny Tudhope, who almost lifted Dream of Dreams to an upset of Blue Point, engineered a 25-1 surprise in the Jersey (G3) aboard Space Traveller. Tudhope finished with four winners, good for third in the jockey standings, and much more is to come from him.
The meet finale, the Queen Alexandra contested at a trip in excess of 2 5/8 miles, produced a poignant story line when Cleonte became a first Royal Ascot winner for King Power Racing. The stable established by the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash last October, had finished second with Beat the Bank in Tuesday’s Queen Anne (G1), Fox Chairman in Thursday’s Hampton Court (G3), and Bangkok in Friday’s King Edward VII (G2). Cleonte provided the breakthrough by staying on too doggedly for defending champion Pallasator to catch. Trainer Andrew Balding was winning his second race of the Royal stand, after Dashing Willoughby in Wednesday’s Queen’s Vase (G2), while Britain’s champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa finally got one on the board.
“It feels like winning five Group 1s!” King Power’s racing manager Alastair Donald enthused. “We’ve been hitting the post all week. We’ve just not had the run of luck though they have been running well.
“I think during the race, his son and the group put a photo of the Chairman on the table – it is all quite emotional.”
Not everything went right for Godolphin on the day. Masar had a horror start in the Hardwicke, stumbling so badly that he almost fell, and Doyle had to be an acrobat to stay in the saddle. Sidelined since taking last year’s Derby (G1) at Epsom, he figured to need this race to shake off the cobwebs, but his chances were compromised right off the bat and he wound up fifth. Masar’s miscue also hampered Nagano Gold, who had to take up sharply in those opening strides. Thus his bold rally for second, beaten just a half-length by Defoe, was as meritorious as it was surprising. With a clean trip could he have pulled a shocker for Czech trainer Vaclav Luka Jr.?
Godolphin was a little unlucky in a messy renewal of the Jersey, where favorite Space Blues didn’t have the smoothest trip and got headed by the unheralded Space Traveller. Momkin suffered an even more checkered passage in sixth, in part thanks to Space Blues’ muscling for room. While tough to gauge exactly how costly his traffic trouble was, the Craven (G3) runner-up was moving well enough to suggest he would have finished closer. O’Brien’s So Perfect had a task shouldering a three-pound penalty versus the boys at this trip, but her ninth-place finish was disappointing nonetheless.
Wesley Ward had hoped for much better from Bound for Nowhere, third in last year’s Diamond Jubilee but only 13th behind Blue Point this time. With his juvenile squad beaten (or scratched), thus ended Ward’s six-year streak of having at least one winner at Royal Ascot.
Dettori, O’Brien, Coolmore top the standings
Boosted by his memorable four-timer on Thursday, Frankie Dettori clinched the riding title with seven wins. Dettori’s sixth career Royal Ascot championship comes 15 years after his last (2004), and ups his career total at the meet to 67 wins. That extends his advantage over Ryan Moore as Royal Ascot’s leading active jockey. Moore, who had won eight of the last nine titles and five straight, scored five wins this time and now sports 58 overall.
Aidan O’Brien ranked as champion trainer for the 10th time, and the fifth year in a row, despite having a few favorites overturned. Such is the depth of Coolmore, which has topped the owners’ standings every year since the category was introduced in 2017. O’Brien sent out five winners, increasing his career Royal Ascot tally to 70. The master of Ballydoyle is chasing Sir Michael Stoute, still the all-time leader after bumping up his total to 81 wins.
Here are the jockeys, trainers, and owners who scored multiple wins at Royal Ascot 2019. Those with the same number of wins are ordered by the number of seconds and thirds as a tiebreak.
Frankie Dettori – 7
Ryan Moore – 5
Danny Tudhope – 4
James Doyle – 3
Andrea Atzeni – 2
Aidan O’Brien – 5
Charlie Appleby – 3
Roger Varian – 3
John Gosden – 2
Andrew Balding – 2
Sir Michael Stoute – 2
William Haggas – 2
Mark Johnston – 2
Coolmore – 5
Godolphin – 3
Khalid Abdullah – 2
Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum – 2