Same winner but different jockey and, according to connections, ‘a different horse’, if those closest to classy sprinter Blue Point are to be believed, and the same runner-up also. Yet teamwork was the key to this repeat King’s Stand Stakes triumph. The team behind the scenes at Godolphin doing their thing to get the best out of a blisteringly quick horse for whom things had not gone so well after success here in 2018. And the teamwork of the weighing room, with William Buick looking on from the sidelines as his friend James Doyle guided the speedy 5yo to another defeat of Battaash, though Mabs Cross was just pipped for third by Soldier’s Call to prevent a total repeat of last year’s result.
Buick is out of action with post head injury syndrome sustained after falling from a horse on the way to the start here in May. He was one of the first to congratulate his deputy and admitted: “Of course you want to be doing your job. I’m not but the team are doing very well, which is the most important thing. “You want everything to go right and James gave him a beautiful ride, very uncomplicated. He let the horse run his race and he did the same as last year. When he hit the rising ground he saw off Battaash.” Doyle had not ridden Blue Point since he finished fourth in the Sprint Cup at Haydock in 2017 and said: “It must be very difficult for William to be here watching these good horses perform so well but I guess it would soften the blow that he knows that his best mate is riding them.
“He was one of the first over to me, giving me a hug. He’ll be back soon and that’s the main thing.” Blue Point has very much been back this year and was making it four out of four in 2019 after three wins in Dubai. “For the last couple of years we’ve had to try to bottle his energy and make sure he produced it at the right time but during the winter he was mentally and physically maturing,” explained trainer Charlie Appleby. “The team at home have done a fantastic job looking after this horse. “He’s strengthened up and when William jumped off him after his first start in Dubai he said this was a different animal we were dealing with, he’s the finished article. “I’m so blessed to have a great team around me. It’s a great team effort to get him here in such good condition.” Not even Godolphin can change the weather and steady rain on the day had raised a slight worry.
“I was a bit concerned about the ground but it can rain as much as it likes now!” Appleby said. “Like any good athlete, we don’t want him to slog around in slower conditions but I felt he was in the condition of his life.” Winning owner Sheikh Mohammed added: “That has given me a lot of pleasure. When you win a Group One, you are very happy. Blue Point was in Dubai during the winter and the weather there helped him. He came here a stronger horse. “It is very good to get a winner at Royal Ascot. Everybody wants a horse able to run at Royal Ascot.” Sheikh Hamdan’s Battaash will bid for a repeat victory in the King George Stakes at Goodwood, with Charlie Hills reckoning he was outstayed by the winner over this stiff 5f. The Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes may have been bereft of a magnificent miler who has dominated the division but the plot more than made up for that.
Last year’s winner Accidental Agent stood still, Silvestre de Sousa was too animated on Beat The Bank and picked up a seven day ban as well as a £1,050 fine, while Lord Glitters avenged his agonising defeat in the race 12 months previously by swooping late to lead home a blanket finish of seemingly unfancied outsiders. There was drama at the start and more was to come at the finish. Rewind a year and Lord Glitters failed by half a length to reel in Accidental Agent. With his conqueror that day losing all chance at the start, his job was simplified ever so slightly and Danny Tudhope timed his challenge to perfection to register his third, and David O’Meara’s fourth, royal winner. The winning margin may have been small, just a neck, but O’Meara admitted afterwards that he never contemplated defeat at any stage during the race.
“It was one of the easiest Royal Ascot runners to watch as there was never a moment when I thought he looked in trouble,” said O’Meara. “He always runs well here as he loves the track. He can be quite strong and keen and that’s what happened in the Lockinge, when he over raced with no cover. Today, as soon as they jumped, Danny took him across and found cover. From there on, it all looked like it went pretty well. I was always happy. “I thought Danny gave him a lovely ride this afternoon and it was brilliant from the word go.” Lord Glitters is one of those horses who needs to be played late. Tudhope had to show his hand last. The braver you are, the bigger the pot. “David told me to ride him as cold as I can and to be brave. If there is anywhere you can do it, it is this track because that last furlong is a long, long way. I enjoyed a lovely split and the race just panned out perfectly,” said Tudhope. This was the day Lord Glitters eclipsed the best milers in the business over the straight Ascot mile.
His last five trips to Ascot now read 22211. There are certainly worse courses to be a specialist at. He said it was down to them. They said it was down to him. Given there were more of them, and considering Aidan O’Brien is an unassuming genius, they were almost certainly the ones telling the truth, and happily so, after Circus Maximus won them all the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes, a 3yo contest over a mile on the round course. It was not necessarily a shock victory, for when Ryan Moore rides a Ballydoyle-based son of Galileo in a Royal Ascot Group One, there is always a fair chance that among those celebrating in the winner’s enclosure will be John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. On this occasion they celebrated in the rain and heaped praise on their sensational trainer.
That trainer already held the record for St James’s Palace wins but his haul has now increased from seven to eight. Yet a week earlier nobody could have predicted he would win it with Circus Maximus, a colt wearing blinkers for the first time who had last been seen finishing sixth in the Derby under Frankie Dettori. That he was next seen defeating John Gosden-trained stable companions King Of Comedy and Too Darn Hot in Royal Ascot’s opening day highlight was not something that could be easily predicted. Sometimes, however, things happen. What happened in this instance is Coolmore’s 2000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia was ruled out of Ascot, following which O’Brien came up with the idea Circus Maximus should be ruled in. He has an inordinately large number of good ideas. This was one of them. To get him into the race ‘the lads’ had to approve a £45,000 supplementary entry, as did Maria Niarchos, in whose famous family colours Circus Maximus struck for home 2f out and first fought off Too Darn Hot at the furlong pole before withstanding King Of Comedy’s flying late lunge.
Irish 2000 Guineas victor Phoenix Of Spain could manage only sixth. So, who had the moment of inspiration we all wondered in the immediate aftermath? “Maria and Derrick and John and Michael all decided between themselves and let us know,” said O’Brien. “We then ran with it. That’s exactly what happened. It’s hard to believe but we’re privileged to be a small part of it.” However, Tabor let it be known O’Brien was a big part of it. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Only Aidan can produce them like that. I’ve learned not to argue with him. He is just right so many times. It’s incredible, it really is. He’s a fantastic trainer. “In life the proof of the pudding is in the eating. There are good talkers but it’s the good doers that count.” So, it was Aidan? “That was Aidan’s suggestion, yeah,” said Magnier, to whom it was suggested O’Brien was therefore being exceptionally modest. “Well, he’s always like that, isn’t he,” added Magnier.
“Nothing surprises me. This horse wasn’t far behind Phoenix Of Spain in the Group One as a 2yo. Put a pair of blinkers on him, add a bit of luck and you get a different result. That’s the game. We didn’t spend the £45,000 for nothing. He had a shot.” O’Brien, with a twinkle in his eye, continued: “No, no, they decided. “Frankie loved him at Epsom but said the track wasn’t for him, which is why he came back to a mile. “We put the blinkers on him as we wanted to sharpen him a bit. He needed to be very focused but didn’t have much time to learn. What we asked him to do was unfair really. He produced, though, and Ryan gave him a great ride.” It was more of the same in the 6f Group 2 Coventry Stakes as O’Brien extended his record as the most successful trainer in the race with Arizona giving him a ninth victory.
The trainer’s first royal meeting winner was in the race in 1997 via Harbour Master, and 22 years later he has now amassed 67 successes at the fixture with Arizona the latest to make it to the hallowed winner’s enclosure. The son of No Nay Never is now favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas, and O’Brien said: “You’d imagine that’s what he is, a Guineas horse. At the moment he’d be very comfortable up to seven. When he won at The Curragh, we thought if he was eligible for the Chesham we’d have had no problem running him. I think he’s probably quicker than he lets on as he’s still a baby.” Arizona came into the race off the back of an eight length stroll at the Curragh, but had to show tenacity to stick on down the centre of the course to defeat second favourite Threat by half a length, with Guildsman a further neck away in third.
O’Brien added: “He was very green the first day and learnt a lot and won very easily next time so probably didn’t learn much. “He was slow away and a bit lost in the race, but came home well. He will have learnt plenty today.” Winning jockey Ryan Moore added: “He’s impressed on all of his starts and has a super attitude. He’s not fully switched on yet and the penny hasn’t dropped to get into gear, but he’ll probably benefit when he goes up in trip. “He’s a class colt. He’s come out of a maiden, so it’s a different tempo and he’s travelled over from Ireland, so you’d only be delighted with what he’s done.” Sheikh Ahmed’s Addeybb bounced back to somewhere close to his imperious best as the former Lincoln winner handed Danny Tudhope a double on day one of Royal Ascot with an easy win in the 1m2f Listed Wolferton Stakes.
Always travelling strongly, Tudhope took his time after an early bump and needed little more than hands and heels to reel in the leaders. As well as his Lincoln success, Addeybb landed the Group 2 Sandown Mile last season before dry ground kept him off the track during the summer, so nobody was happier to see the rain on Tuesday than Tudhope and winning trainer William Haggas. With the mud starting to fly, Addeybb duly showed his penchant for an easier surface to score a comfortable success over favourite Magic Wand in second and Sheikh Hamdan’s Elarqam back in third. “That was great,” said Tudhope.
“I was lucky to get the ride on this lad and when you get him on ground like that he’s a different class to these. “He was in a different league out there today and he has travelled so well, I couldn’t believe how much horse I had under me. I’m very grateful to get the chance to ride him. There are plenty of ups and downs in this game but when you get days like today it makes it all worthwhile.” Eyeing bigger targets down the line, Haggas added: “I know it’s only a Listed race but it was a strong field for that quality and I thought he won really well. “He’s been really well the last two weeks and looks different. With the cheekpieces and the ground, it’s like it was written in the stars today. “He’ll be going up in class but does need this ground and I think, now, this trip.”
The penultimate race on day one of Royal Ascot 2019 was run in attritional conditions, so perhaps it was fitting the Ascot Stakes Handicap was landed by The Grand Visir, representing Cheltenham Festival winning trainer Ian Williams. A son of the mighty Frankel, the 5yo runs for a partnership called CLXX and just two starts ago was finishing fourth in a novice hurdle at Doncaster. However, there was promise on his Flat return at Newmarket and he built on that when denying Buildmeupbuttercup, whose rider Ryan Moore was seeking a day one treble. Time To Study, a stablemate of the winner, was third in the 2m4f handicap. It was a breakthrough victory at Flat meeting’s highest profile stage for the trainer, but a sixth for The Grand Visir’s jockey Richard Kingscote, who said: “That was good and he gave me a great feel, even from the five pole.
“I turned in quite confident, which would be a first at a meeting like this, but he gave me a beautiful ride. “He settled so beautifully and was soon into a lovely rhythm. I never had to bother him once out there. “He’s with a top trainer who has given me some nice winners, so I’m pleased I can give him a nice one today.” Williams, who won the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase with Ballyalton at Cheltenham in 2016, added: “The horse travelled beautifully and Alex Elliott, who bought him, said the other day, ‘Where are we going to go, a novice hurdle or Ascot?’ “We said we’d come here and it’s great; the horse has been crying out for this distance and it was a great ride from Richard. “It’s huge. Someone asked me today if I’d had a Royal Ascot winner and I said no, but it’d be nice this week and this is fantastic, a great feeling.”