Eldar Eldarov got up in the shadow of the post to prevail in a thrilling Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
A winner over a mile at Nottingham in October and a mile and a quarter at Newcastle last month, Roger Varian’s colt faced a big step up in class and distance for this one-mile-six-furlong Group Two.
The son of Dubawi was nearer last than first turning for home, but came from the clouds to seal the narrowest of victories in the hands of David Egan as the 5-2 favourite.
Al Qareem set a strong gallop in front for much of the way and was still in a clear lead at the top of the straight, but began to tire soon after and was passed by Zechariah and Colin Keane.
After seeing off Hafit, the 20-1 shot looked likely to prevail, but he was joined on the line by the fast-finishing Eldar Eldarov and after a tense wait for connections the judge confirmed the latter had won the day by a nose.
Varian said: “I wasn’t sure. I thought we were a good winner before the line and a good winner after the line, but we got the bob wrong, which sometimes can go against you.
“We’ve got the give the second credit, he ran a great race, we’re all elated and he was on the wrong side of a tight photograph so I feel for the second.
“I’m delighted for this horse and these connections, they’re supporting the industry very strongly, they’re supporting me. Days like this are very special to all of us and to get the horse home in front with a lot of expectation is always satisfying.
“The Irish Derby came too soon, he didn’t thrive in the spring. We had a chat about him in the winter, he won at Nottingham in a similar style to the Derby winner won at Nottingham – those end of October maidens. Look at the horses that come out of them, Golden Horn, this year’s Derby winner (Desert Crown).
“We won nicely so of course you’re excited about him, hoping you can get to a Derby trial, which we couldn’t do with him. When he went to Newcastle we thought, ‘if we’re going to Ascot we’ve got to run’, but he was only 90 per cent. He had to run to get a run under his belt, that was a strong novice.
“Then we were unsure, King Edward or the Vase, the ground we were unsure about as well. I thought on fast ground that he looks a horse laden with stamina, let’s go the distance, jump out and ride him to get home. He got every inch and David said he couldn’t pull him up.
“Who knows what the future holds in terms of trip, but he obviously stays very well. I’m delighted, there’s a lot to come from this horse, I think his best days are ahead of him.”
Betfair and Paddy Power slashed the winner in price to 6-1 for the St Leger, which could well be on the radar.
Varian said: “I think he is only going to improve, he is a late-maturing horse. He put in one hell of a performance and you would think looking down the road, he could develop into a St Leger horse and even looking to next year hopefully he can keep improving.”
Egan said: “He was really, really good. I thought he’d won, it’s great for connections to have a Royal Ascot winner.
“He’s a tough horse who I think will be even better with a bit of ease in the ground. It’s riding very quick and we weren’t sure if he was going to go on the ground, he did but there’s a lot more to come from this horse, for sure.
“He’s a true stayer and to do it at Royal Ascot shows his class.”
Zechariah is trained by the father and son team of Martyn and Freddie Meade, who took the narrow reverse on the chin.
“It is always a nod, isn’t it? Can you believe it. One mile six, you think, ‘crikey, you don’t need to lose by that much do you, really?’, but that is racing for you,” said Meade senior.
“We thought we’d got it for a minute, but you can’t really tell. We were sort of in the stands and were sort of too far away to really tell. Looking at the photo, it was a difficult one to call, I would have thought.
“A dead-heat would have been a better result. We have been waiting to run him over this sort of distance and he has been building up to it. Of course, the betting didn’t show that, but we really had a lot of faith in him and it could have been well-placed at one stage.
“Obviously today was a bit of an experiment to make sure our judgement was right that he would get the one mile six, and clearly that has been shown now and so that opens up a lot more opportunities.
“He could be a cup horse in time. We ran him at Lingfield and he didn’t really cope with that in the (Derby) trial and that just wasn’t really right for him.
“We thought this would be a nice flat track, which would suit him and it did. He ran lovely apart from the result.”
Part owned by Aquis Farm, connections may think about running him in Australia in future.
Meade added: “That is always on the cards with people like Aquis, but they have their horses with us to run here, so that is actually not a thing. He might do better over there and we will have to see, but he certainly has got it (trip) and he saw it out well.
“He has been out in front for quite a bit of time and had he had a bit of company then that would undoubtedly have helped him. The St Leger could be something to think about. We’ll see.”
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