Three down. Two to go. Royal Ascot continues Friday with a six-race card, highlighted by the Group 1 Coronation Stakes and the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes. Ken McPeek ships Rosalind for the Coronation, the Ashland winner will meet the likes of Lightning Thunder, My Titania and Rizeena in the $622,500 stakes.
As for Thursday, wow, another riveting day as Leading Light elbowed for room next to Kingman and The Fugue on this year’s Royal Ascot Walk of Fame.
Aidan O’Brien, Joseph O’Brien and the Coolmore team were having a bad Royal Ascot. Then they weren’t. Leading Light prevailed in a wild edition of the Ascot Gold Cup, eventually wearing down a game Missunited, then held off the charismatic Estimate.
Joseph O’Brien angled Leading Light to the quarter of Brown Panther, pinning Ryan Moore and Estimate behind the tiring fourth-place finisher at the crucial moment in the stretch. Moore switched inside as O’Brien gunned Leading Light to reel in Missunited and then stave off a re-rallying Estimate. For his brilliance, O’Brien received a seven-day ban for using his whip above the permitted level. Stewards also noted that Leading Light interfered with Brown Panther, who interfered with Estimate who interfered with Missunited. They ruled that it wasn’t a riding offence and didn’t improve Leading Light’s position. Guess, that’s what they call race riding.
“Ryan was looking for a bit of room, as he was well entitled to, and I was well entitled to keep the room I had. When I got to the front, my horse had a little look and he just wandered a little bit left, probably because he was getting tired. I was rowing away on him but I had some left and I was trying to hold off using my whip for as long as I could. Ryan gave me a little help when he was on my inside by pushing me along a bit,” Joseph O’Brien said. “I think his optimum trip is probably a mile and three-quarters to two miles. At that trip he would have a bit more zip at the end, but he’s as tough as old boots and keeps pulling it out.”
You know those boots you have in the basement, the ones with mud from the 1990s on them, the ones your wife won’t let you bring in the house but you won’t leave outside because you’re afraid a rat will take refuge, that’s Leading Light. The 4-year-old scaled five eighths of a mile farther than he’s ever gone, to conquer the great Estimate, who was making her first start since October.
“It’s a brilliant feeling to win this race – unbelievable,” O’Brien said. “Ryan is probably the best jockey in the world, and I’ve finished behind him on many occasions.”
O’Brien picked up another whip ban, emerging with a grand total of nine free days. As for Moore, he picked up a two-day ban later in the card. Perhaps the boys can meet for a burger at the beach.
It was Aidan O’Brien’s 43rd tally at Royal Ascot and his son Joseph’s sixth.
The O’Briens produced Bracelet to win the Group 2 Ribblesdale in the race before the Gold Cup.
As for Friday. Call in sick one more day, promise a family day on Sunday, regroup next week, sit down and enjoy another stunning card of high-class racing.
The First. The Albany Stakes. 9:30. Group 3 for 2-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs. Wesley Ward tries again, sending out Sunset Glow for Ten Broeck Farm. The daughter of Exchange Rate, who broke her maiden on the Belmont turf June 6 faces 23 rivals, including American-breds Peace And War, Elite Gardens, Cursory Glance and Bitter Lake.
Bitter Lake was bred in America by Darley and races for Godolphin. The other four were offered at Keeneland in September. Ben McElroy purchased Sunset Glow for $140,000 from Eaton Sales. Cursory Glance failed to sell for $150,000 and races for her breeders Merry Fox Stud Limited. John Ferguson purchased Elite Gardens for $140,000 from Claiborne Farm. David Redvers purchased Peace And War for $300,000 from Kaizen Sales.
The Picks: Patience Alexander, Sunset Glow, Elite Gardens.
Second Race. The Wolferton Handicap. 10:05. Class 1 listed handicap going 10 furlongs. Just The Judge, a Group 1 winner, slips to the handicap ranks in search of her first win since winning that Group 1 stakes back in May, 2013. American George Bolton owns Contributor, three-time winner for Ed Dunlop. Arlington Park’s prodigal son Wigmore Hall, second in the 2010 Secretariat Stakes, fourth in the 2011 Arlington Million, seventh in the 2012 Arlington Million and fifth in the American St. Leger at Arlington, seeks his first win since 2012.
Nothing like a British handicap, the only filly in the race carries high weight of 133, the rest are an eclectic mix, their career earnings ranging from $23,000 to $1.9 million.
The Picks. Wigmore Hall, Just The Judge, Café Society.
Third Race. The King Edward VII Stakes. 10:45. Group 2 stakes for 3-year-olds, 1 ½-mile. Undefeated Dylan Mouth ships from Italy, Coolmore counters with once-beaten Adelaide, Juddmonte sends out two-time winner Snow Sky and John Gosden drops Western Hymn from the Investec Derby.
The Picks: Eagle Top, Western Hymn, Adelaide.
Fourth Race. The Coronation Stakes. 11:25. Group 1 stakes for 3-year-old fillies, 1-mile. Team Valor sends out Euro Charline, purchased privately after she won her first two starts. Three-time winner J Wonder, bred in America, represents Andrew Rosen. Potential superstar My Titania travels from Ireland for John Oxx. Rosalind returns to the turf for the first time since breaking her maiden at Ellis Park last August. The daughter of Broken Vow has never finished worse than fourth while competing against the best of her class.
The Picks: Lightning Thunder, My Titania, Rizeena.
Fifth Race. The Queen’s Vase. 12:00. Listed stakes for 3-year-olds, 2 miles. George Strawbridge, whose Born In Bombay won Thursday, seeks a double with Anglo Irish. John Ferguson purchased Marzocco, a son of Kitten’s Joy, for $300,000 from Mill Ridge at Saratoga 2012.
The Picks: Marzocco, Century, Hartnell.
Sixth Race. The Buckingham Palace Stakes. 12:35. Class 2 handicap, 7 furlongs. Let’s just root for Nashville’s favorite cricket player George Baker, who sends out Jack’s Revenge. Looking up my Timeform Sales Guide from Tattersalls HIT Sale last year, I wrote, “Nice trot, nice mover, long pasterns” on Mezzotint’s page. He brought 55,000 guineas.
The Picks: Russian Realm, Horsted Keynes, Mezzotint.