July 19, 2024

Royal Ascot: Fairy Godmother’s Albany triumph highlights Day 4 action

Fairy Godmother winning the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot (Photo by Megan Coggin/Ascot Racecourse)
Fairy Godmother winning the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot (Photo by Megan Coggin/Ascot Racecourse)

The fourth day of racing at Royal Ascot produced eye-catching winners in each of the four group stakes.

The Coronation (G1) and Commonwealth Cup (G1) were the feature events, but the Albany (G3) winner arguably stole the show.

Albany (G3)

Trainer Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore continued their stellar Royal Ascot meet with a win in the Albany, a six-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies. Fairy Godmother was the 2-1 World Pool favorite after unleashing a powerful rally to win the Fillies Sprint (G3) at Naas, and if anything she was even more impressive in the Albany.

Facing 15 rivals, Fairy Godmother rated off the pace in the Albany and found herself trapped behind a wall of horses with approximately a quarter-mile remaining. Rather than rally between rivals, Moore was forced to steer Fairy Godmother around the entire pack, circling up on the near side to launch a rally. Fortunately, Fairy Godmother’s brilliant turn of foot proved sufficient to outkick fellow closer Simmering and pacesetter Heavens Gate to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:13.48 over good-to-firm turf.

“I gave Fairy Godmother an impossible task and she got me out of a hole,” said Moore. “It’s incredible that she was able to win from that position, so all credit to her. She is a very good filly.”

Mountain Breeze, California Dreamer, Royalty Bay, Twafeeg, Cradle of Love, Jayvee, Substitute, Hot Darling, Convo, Nad Alshiba Snow, Kylie of Lochalsh, Peregrine Falcon, and Burning Pine completed the order of finish.

Fairy Godmother has made impressive progress since finishing second in her debut at Naas.

“Ryan gave Fairy Godmother an incredible ride,” said O’Brien. “She’s an incredible filly, isn’t she? We thought she couldn’t get beat the first day, and couldn’t believe she got beat. Ryan said he was just going to teach her and educate her the next day, and take his time on her, and she did the same thing—he came from an impossible position and won well on the line [in the Fillies Sprint]. What she did there today is incredible, and she’s only going to get better with every race. She will get stronger and will stay. She’s very exciting.

“Ryan was super-cool on her. He was worried where he was drawn [in post 6] that he had no cover, which is why he was going to take his time, come over and come back, which is easier said than done, but he did it. It’s difficult to do that, and with everything not going right, still have her when you want her. He was brilliant.”

Michael Tabor, who co-owns Fairy Godmother with Coolmore associates Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier, likewise praised Fairy Godmother’s talent.

“I saw Fairy Godmother run last time and I said to Aidan, when you see that turn of foot, which she obviously has, you know she’s a good animal,” said Tabor. “Today, she just showed how good she is.”

Commonwealth Cup (G1)

Three-year-olds dashing six furlongs took center stage in the Commonwealth Cup, and though 14 horses faced the starter, 2-1 World Pool favorite Inisherin always looked like a winner and conquered his rivals in fine fashion.

Inisherin started 2024 with a respectable sixth-place finish in the 2000 Guineas (G1) racing one mile, after which he cut back to six furlongs and dominated the Sandy Lane (G2) by 3 3/4 lengths. That blowout victory suggested the Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum colorbearer is best as a sprinter, and Inisherin cemented that belief in the Commonwealth Cup.

“Inisherin improved from Haydock,” said winning trainer Kevin Ryan. “I think he is just going to get quicker and better at this job. He’s a joy to train, an absolute legend.”

Under jockey Tom Eaves, Inisherin was never far off the pace set by longshot Orne. When the leader began to tire, Inisherin pounced to the front and confidently held safe late charges from Lake Forest and Jasour to score by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:12.51.

“It was a very easy watch,” continued Ryan. “It is very different ground than how it was at Haydock, which always makes you nervous, but he is a great striding horse. I was nervous about the ground going to Haydock, with it being soft. Then obviously when he won on that type of ground, then coming here… but he hardly bends his knees.”

Kind of Blue, Classic Flower, Louis Barthas, Evade, Starlust, Orne, Pocklington, Pandora’s Gift, Malc, Military, and Givemethebeatboys trailed the field.

“Inisherin is a machine. I am very lucky to be on him. A big thank you to Sheikh Mohammed Obaid and Kevin Ryan,” said Eaves, who was riding his second Royal Ascot winner and his first since 2008. “He’s a unit of a horse, you see how long it took me to pull up. He has a lot of class. He’s quick and when I got off him after the Guineas, before I had even opened my mouth, Kevin said he was a sprinter.”

Coronation (G1)

Breeders’ Cup veteran Porta Fortuna reiterated her top-tier class with a sharp victory in the Coronation for three-year-old fillies racing one mile.

Winner of the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot as a juvenile, Porta Fortuna entered the Coronation off five straight trifecta finishes against Grade 1 and Group 1 company. As a juvenile she won the Cheveley Park (G1), ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Phoenix (G1), and finished third in the Moyglare Stud (G1). The Donnacha O’Brien trainee then started her sophomore season with a runner-up finish in Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1).

“All along, she hasn’t got the credit she deserves,” said O’Brien. “She has never missed a beat. She had two runs before Royal Ascot last year and has literally never missed a race since. She’s incredibly sound, incredibly tough. It is a testament to all the team at home.”

Porta Fortuna wasn’t the World Pool favorite to win the Coronation, starting as the 3-1 third choice; bettors preferred 1000 Guineas third-place finish Ramatuelle (8-5) and last year’s Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) heroine Opera Singer (5-2). But after settling behind early pacesetters Skellet and Opera Singer, Porta Fortuna shifted outside under jockey Tom Marquand and steadily wore down Opera Singer to prevail by one length, stopping the clock in 1:40.48 over the round course.

“Porta Fortuna is so uncomplicated,” said O’Brien. “Tom gave her a lovely ride, I was happy the whole way and everything went to plan. It’s not too often you can say that, so I’m delighted.”

Referencing Porta Fortuna’s defeat in the 1000 Guineas, O’Brien noted “Newmarket is tough, there are a few ridges, they go a hard gallop and there are no hiding places. I think a mile is probably her maximum because she’s got so much speed. On a turning track like this, Tom was able to sit on her and use that turn of foot that she has.”

“Porta Fortuna made it extremely easy,” said Marquand. “She is such a cool customer. She had that near-miss in the Guineas and didn’t really show much of a turn of foot that day, she looked like a grinder, but on this flatter surface, with something to aim at, she was electric from the two.

Ramatuelle closed to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Opera Singer, while 1000 Guineas winner Elmalka (a 7-1 shot) failed to maintain her Newmarket advantage and finished fourth. See The Fire, Folgaria, Skellet, Content, and Rouhiya rounded out the nine-horse field.

After the race, O’Brien indicated a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup could be in the cards for Porta Fortuna, who is owned by the partnership of Medallion Racing, S. Weston, B. Fowler, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing.

“Races like the Falmouth (G1) [at Newmarket July 12] might be in the plan; the owners are an American group so I’d say an end-of-year plan would be the Breeders’ Cup,” said O’Brien.

King Edward VII (G2)

The group stakes action on Day 4 concluded with the King Edward VII (G2), 1 1/2-mile contest for three-year-old colts and geldings. Calandagan, the 5-1 co-third choice, ended a multi-year drought for French-trained runners at Royal Ascot with an authoritative victory.

A homebred racing for the Aga Khan and trained by Francis-Henri Graffard, Calandagan was content to rate off the pace under jockey Stephane Pasquier as Chief Little Rock carved out the pace. But Calandagan steadily advanced on the outside and seized command down the homestretch, powering away to win by half a dozen lengths in 2:29.11.

“Calandagan is a fantastic horse,” said Pasquier. “It was a bit complicated in the first part. He needed to be nice from the gate, nice during the race, and today he was perfect. The pace was fast enough to come from behind.

“Everything was easy. He can be a naughty boy sometimes, and we have to ask him gently. Today he wanted to do everything—when he is like this, he is a fantastic horse. I didn’t do anything, I just asked him to do it by himself.”

Space Legend finished a distant second over Royal Supremacy, followed by Mondo Man, The Euphrates, Macduff, Agenda, Harper’s Ferry, War Rooms, Diego Velazquez, Theory of Tides, Chief Little Rock, Voyage, and Defiance.

Calandagan prepped for Ascot with a victory in the Prix Hocquart (G3) and became the first French-trained runner to prevail at the royal meeting since 2019.

“I am very impressed,” said Graffard. “I was so down after my filly [Rouhiya finished last in the Coronation Stakes] earlier, but this horse did it very easily. My wife was cheering beside me—we enjoyed the moment.”

Royal Ascot wraps up on Saturday with a trio of group stakes, including the six-furlong Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1). Of particular interest to U.S. racing fans is the 1 1/2-mile Hardwicke (G2), in which John Sadler’s multiple graded stakes winner Missed the Cut will seek to become the first American-trained winner at the 2024 Royal meeting.