Dark Shift is Royal Hunt Cup hero

Dark Shift provided jockey James McDonald with his second winner of the week at Royal Ascot as he motored to victory in the Royal Hunt Cup.

Having been seen to great effect aboard Australian raider Nature Strip in the King’s Stand on Tuesday, the New Zealand-born rider adopted very different tactics aboard this Charlie Hills-trained grey.

A winner of three of his last four starts, and carrying a 5lb penalty for the most recent of those triumphs at Nottingham last month, 13-2 chance Dark Shot was dropped out towards the rear of the field early on as 29 runners bounded up the straight mile.

After making his move from the halfway stage, Dark Shot edged towards the front racing inside the final two furlongs and finished strongly to beat Intellogent (40-1) by half a length.

“It was always the plan to go for the Victoria Cup. We ran there and got a terrible draw. We needed to them run him again to get into this race,” Hills said.

“We ran him at Nottingham and he won there. It was a bit of a worry if we would get into the race two days ago. Anyway, it’s great. Myself and James McDonald go back a long way. He came to spend the summer with us eight years ago and we have become good family friends and for connections to let him ride the horse means an awful lot. I’m very proud.

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“James is so good. Not taking anything away from our boys, we’ve got some great ones in England, but we just seem to get on well. It’s great to have James on our side.”

Rising Star caused a 40-1 upset in the concluding Kensington Palace Stakes.

While a third-placed finish behind Highfield Princess on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Newcastle reads well, Marco Botti’s filly had since been beaten at Ascot and Beverley.

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