It’s hard to imagine a Guineas winner being overlooked as a potential threat in a race.
Nevertheless, that certainly appeared the case as Ryan Moore chose to tail Awtaad into the straight at Ascot, allowing Frankie Dettori the opportunity of stealing a vital advantage which proved crucial in winning the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Chris Hayes spotted the danger first and threw everything at Awtaad to try and bridge the gap that a perfect Frankie ride had produced, but Galileo Gold was not for catching. Moore would certainly have been closer on The Gurkha had he not been forced to switch wide late on, but the bird had flown and Hugo Palmer was left to celebrate a famous victory.
Palmer was full of praise for his rider: “It was a tough challenge, he got the most magnificent ride from the widest draw. It's fair to say he's the best three-year-old colt in Europe.”
Palmer added: “He ran a huge race in Ireland but he wasn't able to use his stride there. At Newmarket and here today the horse's stride was never broken. Frankie managed to get him into the most magnificent rhythm and then the horse just galloped and galloped and galloped. It shows you why at this level you need everything to go right. One tiny thing went wrong in Ireland and we finished second. Everything went right today and we won. He's a remarkable colt and we're very lucky to have him.”
Dettori once again proved head and shoulders above the rest in a tactical battle and summed it up after the race, saying: “Everything went to plan - I managed to get first run on the other two.”
The winner was reversing the form from the Irish Guineas, and connections of third home Awtaad were left questioning the performance of their fella, with Angus Gold, representative for owner Hamdan Al Maktoum, saying: “My own feeling is that I'm not convinced the horse wants the ground this soft. The fact he had the better of The Gurkha and then The Gurkha came and got him at the end and he stopped in his run. I think he was struggling in the ground a bit. There will be no point trying to go further yet and I've no doubt he's better than we saw today. He was never winging like he was in Ireland.”
Tactics certainly played a key role in the result, and the three look sure to clash again later in the season when taking on the older generation, when the outcome will be just as difficult to predict.
A major success for Dettori on the big occasion comes as no surprise, and the same can now be said for this season’s leading sprinter, who looks to have the opposition covered and is set to dominate in the coming months.
Profitable once again travelled like the best horse throughout the King’s Stand Stakes, and when asked to go and win the race, found enough to see off outsiders Cotai Glory and Goken. Ridden with great confidence by Adam Kirby, he was perfectly positioned to strike entering the final furlong as favourite Mecca’s Angel began to fade.
Kirby was understandably emotional after the victory having celebrated the birth of son Charlie just a few hours earlier. Wiping away the tears he said: “I know my mum's watching and she'll be so proud. All Dad wanted to do was see me ride a Group 1 winner and he's missed them all. I'd like to thank my girlfriend. It's a big day for her, she had a baby boy a couple of hours ago, so it's good all round.”
Trainer Clive Cox was also thrilled with the win, his sprinter having again proved capable of coping with testing conditions. He said: “He's special. You need a special horse to come here and do it. This is what we're chasing all the time, this is why we want to be here. The ground at Haydock [last time] was a concern, which gave me more confidence for today, but every time it rained I was more concerned. He travelled so strongly and he dug in. He's pretty damn good.”
Kirby added: “He's the best five-furlong horse I've ever sat on. His cruising speed is phenomenal.”
The first Group 1 of the meeting had gone to American challenger Tepin, winning the Queen Anne Stakes. The Breeders' Cup Mile winner also coped admirably with conditions as she stamped her class on the race, holding off Belardo by half a length at the line. French-born jockey Julien Leparoux, was having his first ride in Europe, and said: “It's a great feeling and she's proved she's a champion today. She had to work hard.”
Owner Robert Masterson was thrilled with the win and clearly hopes that the success will motivate others to travel over for the royal meeting. He said: “She is the best thing in the world. It's all her, we just represent her. She is fantastic and she did a fantastic job again today. People say the Americans need to have drugs in their horses. Well she had no drugs in her, no nasal strip, nothing anyone was worried about in the papers and she just performed magnificently. It's a great message to send back home.”
Masterson admitted to being concerned prior to the win, saying: “The one thing we were worried about was the ground. She's won on the soft before but we didn't know exactly how it was and she'd never been on a straight or up a hill. There was a lot for her to overcome but she just did it. She's one of those professionals who just does it.”
Conditions are set to remain testing today after further rain fell during yesterday’s action. Little however, could dampen the enthusiasm for this tremendous meeting.