February 28, 2024

Royal Ascot: Love shrugs off long layoff to nab Prince of Wales’s Stakes

Love winning the Prince of Wales's S. (G1) - Ascot Racecourse/Megan Ridgwell/Racenews
Love winning the Prince of Wales's S. (G1) - Ascot Racecourse/Megan Ridgwell/Racenews

Love was in the air on Day 2 at Royal Ascot. Or—more specifically—the sensational filly Love was in the air, flying to the finish line in a thrilling renewal of the Prince of Wales’s S. (G1).

The four-year-old daughter of Galileo wasn’t quite as dominant as in 2020, when she crushed the 1000 Guineas (G1), Epsom Oaks (G1), and Yorkshire Oaks (G1) by a minimum of 4 1/4 lengths. Instead, she was asked to reveal a new dimension—tenacity. And she was not found wanting.

Favored at 11-10 while facing five rivals, Love had much to overcome in the Prince of Wales’s. Not only was she returning from a 10-month layoff, she was cutting back from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/4 miles and facing males for the first time. With these obstacles in her path, Love—though certainly a deserving favorite—couldn’t be considered a lock to win.

But in the end, Love conquered all. Under a bold front-running ride from Ryan Moore, Love dashed to the lead and dared her rivals to catch up. The five-year-old mare Audarya gave it a bold try in her first start since winning the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), but Love absolutely refused to yield under pressure, forging on to score by three-quarters of a length in 2:06.86.

“Obviously this was her first run of the year and we had to be very cautious. We knew that she was going to come on a lot from the run and Ryan gave her a beautiful ride,” said winning trainer Aidan O’Brien.

“She’s very genuine, very brave. Ryan was trying to balance it…he was just trying to do enough, and not to do too much. He was trying to do the right thing for Love…We knew that her head was out and down and looking at Ryan’s body language, he hadn’t gone for everything. He was trying to let her win and give her as easy time as he could.”

Love’s stablemate Armory battled on to finish third, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths. My Oberon, Desert Encounter, and Sangarius completed the order of finish.

Soft ground prevented Love from starting her 2021 season as early as planned, but O’Brien express satisfaction with her winning return at Royal Ascot.

“Obviously, we had prepared her two or three times and stopped and started again, which is far from ideal, but I’m delighted that the lads decided to do this—to wait until the ground came right,” said O’Brien. “It was a lovely place to start, Royal Ascot—there’s nowhere better.”

Prevailing in the Prince of Wales’s earned Love a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar, though it remains to be seen whether she’ll accept the invitation. Immediate plans call for a summer campaign in Europe.

“I think everything is open to her, the King George (G1), the Eclipse (G1), whatever the lads decide and whatever they want to do,” said O’Brien, referring to Love’s ownership group—Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Mrs. John Magnier of Coolmore.

Queen Mary S.

The Prince of Wales’s was the only Group 1 race taking place on Wednesday at Royal Ascot, though a trio of Group 2 events provided additional excitement and entertaining. The day began with the Queen Mary S. (G2) for juveniles, in which American trainer Wesley Ward saddled 9-4 favorite Twilight Gleaming. The daughter of National Defense ran well, but ultimately settled for second place as Quick Suzy came rallying past to score by 1 1/4 lengths.

Jockey Gary Carroll guided Quick Suzy to victory on behalf of trainer Gavin Cromwell. The 8-1 shot entered with three previous runs under her belt, including a runner-up effort in the Fillies Sprint S. (G3).

“I’m not a known as a trainer of two-year-olds or sprinters, so it was very hard to tell but I knew she was in great nick,” said Cromwell. “This goes down to the staff at home and the big effort they have put in.”

“The plan was she would remain with me until Royal Ascot and then go to America. Maybe we can twist the owners’ arm and go for the Breeders’ Cup with her.”

Queen’s Vase S.

The second race of the afternoon was the 1 3/4-mile Queen’s Vase S. (G2) for three-year-olds. The race turned into a display of stamina from Kemari, a Godolphin colorbearer who tracked the early tempo, took command in the homestretch, and forged on to beat 100-30 favorite Wordsworth by 1 1/2 lengths.

Charlie Appleby conditions the gelded son of Dubawi, who entered off a runaway maiden victory at Yarmouth. William Buick was in the saddle.

“I must give the team at home a lot of credit for this—he has been a challenging horse during the course of the winter,” said Appleby. “He was gelded, and had his hood on for his first start, but full credit to them, they’ve done a great job.

“And William [Buick]—he praised him highly after that win at Yarmouth. I have to say, I sat on the fence slightly and felt he was a horse who was progressing, but was he progressing quickly enough to be able to step up into today’s league?

“He has proved me wrong and William right, which is the great thing about having a team such as we’ve got, we all put our opinions in and hopefully we get the right result. But the horse is definitely a horse who’s going the right way.”

Duke of Cambridge S.

Last but not least, Indie Angel gave trainers John and Thady Gosden their third win of the royal meeting when rallying to a confident triumph in the Duke of Cambridge S. (G2). Disregarded as a 22-1 shot in the one-mile test for fillies and mares, Indie Angel shrugged off a fourth-place finish in last month’s Dahlia S. (G2) at Newmarket to rally down the Ascot straight course and defeat Dahlia winner Lady Bowthorpe by 2 1/2 lengths.

The daughter of Dark Angel was guided to victory by Frankie Dettori, who picked up his second victory in as many days at Royal Ascot.

“Everything felt right today. Indie Angel needs fast ground, she needs cover and needs plenty of room; she doesn’t like to be crowded, and we had all three things today,” explained Dettori. “Things didn’t work out at Newmarket; she was too fresh and I couldn’t hold her, she saw plenty of daylight. I didn’t know what to expect, but she took off today. Today she reversed the form for the reasons I said. She shouldn’t have been 22-1, because some of her form is quite decent.”

Day 3 of Royal Ascot brings four more group stakes to the table, led by the Gold Cup (G1), in which standout stayer Stradivarius will seek a record-equaling fourth win in the 2 1/2-mile test of stamina.