The feature event on Day 2 of Royal Ascot produced a surprising upset as 12-1 longshot Mostahdaf beat a bevy of top-level winners in the Prince of Wales’s (G1).
The John and Thady Gosden trainee had won a quartet of Group 3 prizes over the last three seasons, including the Neom Turf Cup (G3) at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, but a fourth-place finish when last seen in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) left the son of Frankel as a longshot at Ascot. Instead, bettors favored Irish Champion (G1) winner Luxembourg, 2021 Derby (G1) hero Adayar, and Champion (G1) winner Bay Bridge.
But even against this accomplished field, Mostahdaf left no doubt about his superiority. Under a patient ride from jockey Jim Crowley, the five-year-old Shadwell colorbearer trailed the six-horse field before rallying powerfully down the home straight to trounce pacesetting Luxembourg by four lengths, completing 1 1/4 miles over a good course in 2:05.95.
Luxembourg saw off Adayar by half a length for runner-up honors, while My Prospero, Bay Bridge, and the U.S. raider Classic Causeway completed the order of finish.
“I was expecting Mostahdaf to pick up well in the straight but not to make them look like they were standing still,” said John Gosden. “But he did that in Riyadh; he won the Neom Cup and just flew away. When the ground dries up, he’s a brilliant horse.
“We were going to run him in the Brigadier Gerard (G3), but he hadn’t quite recovered from his Middle Eastern campaign. If you check the form book, he took on a certain Japanese horse (Equinox) in the Sheema Classic. And a mile and a half is beyond him—he’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse, but he was the one who put it up to them and gave it his best go, but what a horse the Japanese horse is.”
Winning the Prince of Wales’s secured Mostahdaf a fees-paid berth to compete in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. It remains to be seen whether his connections will accept the invitation, but in the meantime, John Gosden indicated the Aug. 23 Juddmonte International (G1) at York is next on the agenda.
John and Thady Gosden picked up a second Wednesday winner when Gregory prevailed in the 1 3/4-mile Queen’s Vase (G2) for three-year-olds. Favored at 4-5 under world-renowned jockey Frankie Dettori, Gregory led for much of the journey and stayed on strongly down the Ascot homestretch to beat Saint George by 1 1/2 lengths in 3:03.13.
Chesspiece, Circle of Fire, Etna Rosso, St Vincents Garden, Peking Opera, Sumo Sam, Think First, Batemans Bay, Hadrianus, Nurburgring, Ndaawi, and Steven Seagull trailed home the winner, who is now undefeated in three starts. He won his debut at Haydock before posting a three-length score in Goodwood’s Cocked Hat S., his prep for Royal Ascot.
For Dettori, the winningest active jockey in Royal Ascot history, the victory was especially sweet. After decades of success, Dettori is expected to retire by the end of 2023, in which case this Royal Ascot meet will be his last.
“I thought this winner was never going to come this year. I had three seconds yesterday, but I thought this horse was my best chance today,” said Dettori. “I knew this horse was good enough, but I wasn’t so sure about his experience. He is very laid-back at home and I thought if he doesn’t jump, he will get lost, but he jumped great, I got him to the front and I knew he would stay very well.
“I was in front for a long time and, when Oisin (Murphy, on runner-up Saint George) came to me, I thought ‘oh, no, not another second’. To this horse’s credit he really stuck his neck out.
“It’s my last Royal Ascot and to ride a winner is fantastic. It’s amazing the reception I got because it’s my last season—I’m both sad and happy. I’ve got another three days here and it’s nice to get one on the board.”
Earlier in the afternoon, U.S. racing fans had a chance to rejoice when Crimson Advocate battled to a tenacious victory in the Queen Mary (G2) for two-year-old fillies sprinting five furlongs on turf.
Winner of the inaugural Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies S. at Gulfstream Park—a designated prep for Royal Ascot—Crimson Advocate led for much of the Queen Mary journey and dug deep in the final furlong to beat Relief Rally by a nose in :59.96. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was in the saddle.
“I have so much respect for the horses over here,” said winning trainer George Weaver. “It always seems like the European horses are better grass horses than what we have, but I knew our filly was very talented and I was hoping that she would be able to get the job done. Don’t get me wrong, the way she won at Gulfstream, I was very excited about her, but like I said, I have tremendous respect for the trainers and horses that are over here.”
Completing the order of finish were Beautiful Diamond, Juniper Berries, Got to Love a Grey, Flora of Bermuda, Lady Pink Rose, Balsam, Midnight Affair, Cynane, Thanksbutnothanks, Geologist, Graceful Thunder, Launch, Betties Bay, Gaiden, Mariamne, Princess Chizara, Callianassa, Tallulabelle, Bated Moon, Bundchen, Out of the Stars, Onigiri, Hot Front, and Cotai Vision.
Velazquez noted that a drying turf course helped Crimson Advocate deliver her winning performance.
“That was close, but I’m glad Crimson Advocate held on. We knew she was going to be really fast coming out; we tried to get her on the best path for the firmer ground. From yesterday to today, the turf is a little bit firmer, so it’s better for our horses and she showed up today.”
Also on the Wednesday card, Rogue Millennium posted a 10-1 surprise in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) for fillies and mares tackling the one-mile straight course. The Tom Clover trainee rated off the early pace under Daniel Tudhope before wearing down pacesetter Random Harvest to prevail by a neck in 1:41.33.
Prosperous Journey took third place over Jumbly, followed by Potapova, Lightship, Queen Aminatu, Grande Dame, Honey Girl, and Internationalangel.
Smaller events on the day included the Kensington Palace Fillies’ H., in which Villanova Queen battled to victory racing one mile over the round course; the Royal Hunt Cup, which saw Jimi Hendrix rally to a two-length score in the one-mile straight contest; and the Windsor Castle S., a five-furlong turf sprint for juveniles in which Big Evs decisively outsprinted a large field to win by three lengths.
Royal Ascot reaches its midpoint on Thursday with another seven-race card highlighted by four group stakes. The 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup (G1) is the feature event, but another prominent contest is the Norfolk (G2), a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1).