Day one at Royal Ascot brought out all things for the racing fan — from course records, to the best miler in Europe winning in record time, to the American Lady Aurelia returning to England, and the upset of Europe’s reigning king of the turf. And, for the first time, American racing fans were treated with full-card coverage from paddock to post via NBC Sports Network.
Overall, it was a big day for Godolphin as the boys in blue captured three of the six races on Tuesday’s card.
“Hatta was my first horse [to win at Royal Ascot] and people were surprised when she beat the favorite,” Godolphin’s Shekh Mohammed al Maktoum said. “From that day, we have moved forward and we are really enjoying it. In life, there is no winning post. You have to keep going otherwise the rest will catch up with you. Royal Ascot is a great place to win. It is difficult to win because everybody comes from all over the world.”
The excitement kicked off right away with the day’s first, the Queen Anne Stakes (GI), which featured a pair of popular American-based runners in Miss Temple City and American Patriot. But it was Ribchester, one of Europe’s top milers, who proved best by 1 ¼ lengths over Mutakayyef, with Deauville another neck back in third. American Patriot and Miss Temple City finished 11th and 13th, respectively.
Godolphin’s Ribchester, who took command with just over a furlong to run, weaved back and forth across the course in his dominant performance and covered the eight furlongs in 1:36.60 — a new course record. The 4-year-old son of Iffraaj earned his third career Group 1 win and his second in a row after winning the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (GI) in May.
Trained by Richard Fahey for Godolphin, Ribchester is out of the Marju mare, Mujara. Ribchester has now racked up a career line of 12-5-3-3 for earnings of $2,540,614. He was purchased by his current owners from David Armstron in September of 2015 shortly before winning the Mill Reef Stakes (GII) at Newbury.
In the afternoon’s second co-feature, Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton and Peter Leidel’s international star Lady Aurelia returned to the scene of her first European victory to capture the King’s Stand Stakes (GI) in near-record time. The 3-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy, who is trained by Wesley Ward, was originally scheduled to be ridden by European champion jockey Frankie Dettori, but had American Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard when Dettori took off the week’s mounts citing slow recovery from an arm injury suffered in a spill at Yarmouth last week.
After a clean break, Velazquez settled Lady Aurelia off the torrid early pace in fifth and, with just more than a quarter-mile left to run in the five-furlong dash, asked his filly for more and she responded with a burst in the middle of the track. Lady Aurelia opened up in deep stretch to win by three lengths over Profitable, who finished second, with Marsha just a head back in third. The final time for the five furlong dash was 57.45 seconds, a mere 0.01 seconds off the course record.
Ward said before the race that winning it would be the highlight of his entire training career and, after the victory, the conditioner could not temper his excitement and praise for his filly, who also won last year’s Darley Prix Morny (GI) at Deauville.
“This is a Group 1 featuring the fastest sprinters in the world, and to duplicate last year — she’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” Ward said. “She’s amazing, she loves it over here and we look forward to a big summer. The owners are so excited and it’s wonderful for American racing.”
Lady Aurelia was bred in Kentucky by co-owners Stonestreet Stable and was purchased for $350,000 by Bolton and Leidel as a Keeneland September yearling in 2015. She won last year’s Queen Mary Stakes over the Ascot course and also the Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland in April. Overall her record stands at 6-5-0-1, $718,617.
In perhaps the most anticipated race of the day, Magnier Tabor and Smith’s Churchill was looking for his fifth straight Group 1 score in one-mile St. James’s Palace Stakes (GI), but it was Godolphin’s Barney Roy who stole the show, stalking the early pace under jockey James Doyle before taking command a furlong out and holding off the late charges to win by a length in course-record time of 1:37.22.
Lancaster Bomber checked in second, a head in front of Thunder Ridge. Churchill ran a somewhat flat fourth.
Trained by Richard Hannon, Barney Roy turned the tables on Churchill, who he finished second to in his last start in the English Two Thousand Guineas (GI) in May. He also won despite his saddle slipping significantly under Doyle following the break.
“I thought he was off the bridle a bit early and I was a little worried that he was going to run a moderate race and finish fourth, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in this horse and I’m delighted,” Hannon said. “I was confident he’d run his race, not confident he’d win. I just wanted to give him the chance to prove that, as I don’t think he got that chance in the Guineas.”
Barney Roy, who has now won three of four career starts for his owners, has banked $470,453. He passed through the auction ring twice, first for $49,295 as a Tattersalls December weanling in 2014 and again the following year, bringing $110,439 as a Doncaster Premiere Yearling. He was bred in Britain Elza Park International Pty Ltd. and was purchased privately by Godolphin from Sullivan Bloodstock Limited in March.