July 22, 2024

Royal Ascot: Khaadem repeats in Jubilee, Bedtime Story obliterates Chesham

Khaadem winning the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1) at Royal Ascot (Photo by Megan Coggin/Ascot Racecourse)
Khaadem winning the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1) at Royal Ascot (Photo by Megan Coggin/Ascot Racecourse)

Royal Ascot wrapped up on Saturday with a mix of blowout victories and dramatic head-to-head battles. Three group stakes, including an exciting renewal of the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1), led the action.

Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1)

For the second straight year, Khaadem managed to spring a surprise in the six-furlong Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee. He was a giant longshot when he battled to victory by a neck in 2023, having lost six straight races leading up to the contest.

Khaadem was unheralded again in 2024, starting as a 16-1 chance in the World Pool after failing to finish better than fifth in four starts since the 2023 Jubilee. But the eight-year-old gelding turned back the clock while returning to Royal Ascot, rallying with determination under Oisin Murphy to beat the pacesetting filly Swingalong by half a length.

Owned by Mrs. Fitri Hay and trained by Charlie Hills, Khaadem became the first eight-year-old to win the Jubilee and the first horse to win consecutive editions since Right Boy in 1958-59.

“What an amazing horse; eight years of age and back-to-back wins in the race—an incredible training performance from Charlie Hills and his team,” said Murphy. “Wonderful.”

Khaadem completed the race in 1:12.25 over good-to-firm turf, improving slightly on his 1:12.42 clocking over similar footing in 2023. Mill Stream finished third, followed by 3-1 favorite Believing, Vadream, The Wizard of Eye, Mitbaahy, Shartash, Shouldvebeenaring, Washington Heights, Quinault, Art Power, and Jumby.

“He got a fantastic ride there off the pace and he never looked like he was going to get beat; he traveled beautifully through the race,” said Hills. “He loves the place and it’s the first time he’s had the ground, pretty much since he ran here last time. I think fast ground is key to him. He had a lovely pitch, they went a good strong pace in front, but he just travels so well. He’s such a versatile horse; he was making the running over five furlongs two years ago. I just really felt there’s a different trajectory to running like a good horse over six, and it seems to have suited him very well.”

Hardwicke (G2)

The 1 1/2-mile Hardwicke also produced a double-digit surprise as 13-1 World Pool chance Isle of Jura posted a blowout victory under jockey Callum Shepherd.

Isle of Jura spent the winter in Bahrain and arrived at Royal Ascot off four straight victories to start 2024, including a triumph in the Festival S. at Goodwood. The Hardwicke marked his first start in a group stakes, but that proved to be no obstacle as the four-year-old Victorious Racing colorbearer was always prominent and took over in the homestretch to draw away and win by 3 3/4 lengths in 2:32.19.

“Isle of Jura has been amazing,” said Shepherd. “We took him over for that handicap series in Bahrain initially, and obviously you hope he’s going to be better than that, but at that stage we had no idea. He just kept improving; he’s never let us down and has got better with every start.

“He has become very straightforward, and he has a real desire to win as well. He was rusty at Goodwood, but you still saw that innate desire to pass the post in front, which is so important.”

Fellow longshot Goliath held off Middle Earth for second place, followed by Candleford, Continuous, Crypto Force, Elegant Man, Desert Hero, and U.S. raider Missed the Cut.

Both Shepherd and winning trainer George Scott were enjoying their first win at Royal Ascot.

“Isle of Jura is a special horse,” said Scott. “He has improved all the time and has been a pleasure to train. He has just kept improving physically—he is the most ginormous horse. He is a beautiful mover and a lot of hard work has gone into him at home.

“The finish was a moment I will never forget, everything stopped for a minute and I could enjoy the last half-furlong. Most best-laid plans go to pot, but this has been a long-term plan. This was an obvious race for him. We knew Goodwood would bring him on, and it has. We knew he would get the ground, and he has. It was a scintillating performance, so we shall enjoy it.”

Jersey (G3)

The seven-furlong Jersey for three-year-olds produced a heart-pounding finish. After finishing third in Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas (G1) and second by a head in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), Haatem appreciated dropping in class at Royal Ascot, digging deep under James Doyle to repulse a challenge from Kikkuli and prevail by a short head.

Having won at the Group 3 level in the Craven during the spring at Newmarket, Haatem was required to carry top weight of 132 pounds in the Jersey, conceding at least three pounds to each of his rivals. But Haatem’s class proved sufficient to overcome the penalty, as the Wathnan Racing representative seized a clear lead with a furlong remaining and refused to waver as Kikkuli challenged from midfield.

Chicago Critic finished a length back in third, followed by 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) runner-up Mountain Bear. Trailing the field were Zoum Zoum, Never So Brave, Task Force, River Tiber, Boiling Point, Pearls and Rubies, Indian Run, Ziggy’s Dream, Son, Eben Shaddad, Native American, Kortez Bay, Dark Tornado, El Bodon, and Night Raider.

“Haatem is a pleasure to have around and I would love to think we will have an association for a few years to come,” said winning trainer Richard Hannon. “He deserved his day in the sun and hopefully there will be many more.

“He carried a three-pound penalty today. He got to the front very easy and I’m just delighted for the horse. It’s a Group 3 but I think this Jersey was an awful lot more than it normally is. He has credit for a lot more than that and I’m sure a Group 1 is coming very soon.”

Hannon doesn’t want to give Haatem a rematch with stablemate Rosallion, the Irish 2000 Guineas winner who came back to win the St James’s Palace (G1) on opening day of Royal Ascot. Instead, a globetrotting campaign could be in the cards for Haatem.

“There are some very good races for him in Australia, America, France but we’ll take him home first,” said Hannon. “I just don’t think there is any need for him to take on Rosallion. It’s not a race I would enjoy watching; it seems a little unfair.”

Chesham S.

Although it wasn’t a group stakes, the seven-furlong Chesham S. for two-year-olds produced arguably the most impressive winner on closing day. Bedtime Story, an Aidan O’Brien-trained filly owned by Coolmore associates Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor, looked like a winner throughout and exploded from midfield to dominate by 9 1/2 lengths.

With Ryan Moore in the saddle, Bedtime Story reached the finish line in 1:27.01. Pentle Bay and Brian rounded out the top three, followed by Jewel of London, Miss El Fundi, Expensive Rose, Age of Gold, Defence Missile, Metro Dubai, Hot Like Me, Moon Sniper, Lazy Griff, Motawahij, Duke of Monroth, and Shocker.

“We never let Bedtime Story go before,” said O’Brien. “This was the first time she was asked to stretch. Ryan said he couldn’t believe it; he said everyone fell away, he said ‘go on’, and she just took off. He didn’t even give her a slap down the shoulder.

“We thought she was probably a Group 1 filly, but we hadn’t looked—thinking is one thing and seeing is another, so everyone saw it together today. It was the first time she was ever dropped down, really.”

Bedtime Story kicked off her career with a debut victory racing 7 1/2 furlongs at Leopardstown. Following her demolition of male rivals in the Chesham, she’s undefeated in two starts.

“Bedtime Story is a very good filly,” said Moore. “She traveled very easy and they’ve gone too slow for her really. I had room at the three (furlong marker), so we started going forward, and the race was over very quickly. She is a level above all of them. A performance like that, you don’t see normally.”

The victory of Bedtime Story cemented Moore and O’Brien as the leading jockey and trainer of the 2024 Royal Ascot meet. Moore won six races to top the standings for the third year in a row and for the 11th time in his career; Oisin Murphy and James Doyle finished closest to Moore with four winners apiece.

O’Brien likewise won six races to easily top the trainer standings over John and Thady Gosden, Karl Burke, Ralph Beckett, Brian Meehan, Kevin Ryan, and Richard Hannon, each of whom recorded two victories.

Coolmore Partners finished atop the owner rankings with six wins, followed by the four wins of rising power Wathnan Racing.