Laura Pearson marked the inaugural running of the Kensington Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot by leading home a memorable one-two for trainer David Loughnane on Lola Showgirl.
Pearson, still a 5lb claimer as she continues her rise to prominence as one of the emerging stars of the weighing room, is just the fourth female jockey to win at the meeting – and the first to do so as an apprentice.
She had Lola Showgirl perfectly positioned and stretched clear into the straight – where it soon became apparent that only her stablemate Ffion, ridden by Richard Kingscote, was close enough to mount a meaningful challenge.
But Pearson and her willing partner had matters under control, staying on with great determination as the 12-1 winners by three-quarters of a length – for not only her first Royal Ascot success but Shropshire trainer Loughnane’s too, in the new handicap for fillies and mares.
Pearson has ridden at Ascot a few times previously, but was making her debut at the showpiece meeting.
The 20-year-old said: “I don’t even know what to say. It’s just incredible. I knew she had a chance and was a strong contestant for my first Royal Ascot ride.
“I took a break at the end of the all-weather season to protect my 5lb claim for the turf campaign and it’s paid off.
“I had an absolutely lovely run, she bowled out, she’s been running over seven (furlongs) but Mr Loughnane said she’d want every stride of the mile.
“She bowled out, got into a lovely rhythm and just kept plugging on for me.”
She added: “That was my first Royal Ascot ride. I’ve ridden at Ascot about three or four times before this.”
“Hollie (Doyle) helps me so much, as well as Hayley (Turner), I can’t thank them enough for the amount of times they’ve given me a hand and it’s paid off.
“It’s just unimaginable, honestly, I dreamt of it but I never thought it would happen.”
Loughnane said: “Some kids dream of being footballers, singers and superheroes – this is my dream. To be living it is very surreal so quickly in my career. Myself and (wife) Sarah are so grateful to our families, our owners, our staff. It might take a while to sink in, this.
“It was a case of who do you cheer for, and I think the chant became ‘come on, girls!’. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t fancy them both coming in today. I couldn’t split them. Ffion probably has more ability while Lola Showgirl, as she showed today, is just so tough. She loves a fight.”
“I’m delighted for the owners, delighted for the staff and it’s one that will live long in the memory.”
He went on: “I’ve been a fan of Laura for a long time. I’d seen her riding when she went up to David Evans as an apprentice. I was impressed by her then and we’ve tried just to support her as much as we could since, and she’s rewarded that support tenfold.
“She’s as cool as a breeze – whether she’s from off the pace or is in the front, she’s got her sectionals to the second. Her first ride at Royal Ascot…that’s a hell of a ride. She’s repaid our faith in her and I couldn’t be happier for her and everyone else involved.”