The up to 28mm of forecast rain didn’t materialise overnight which was great news for both Mohaafeth and Stradivarius, two of the stars of day three.
We had not only the Group 1 Gold Cup, but three more Group races to look forward to. The closing three races, all competitive handicaps, were thrilling too as we passed the half-way mark at the royal meeting.
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Royal Ascot Day 3 – Thursday 17th June 2021
The feature race, naturally, was the Gold Cup. That came at 4.15 with the brilliant Stradivarius keeping all eyes on him in the preliminaries.
The Hampton Court Stakes provided previous Derby hopeful Mohaafeth with a chance of a big win, while the Ribblesdale Stakes which is also known as the ‘Ascot Oaks’ gave some potentially top-class fillies the chance to strut their stuff.
2.30 – Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) (CLASS 1) (2yo) 5f
|1st||Perfect Power||14/1||Richard Fahey||Paul Hanagan|
|2nd||Go Bears Go||6/1||David Loughnane||Silvestre De Sousa|
|3rd||Project Dante||6/1||Bryan Smart||Graham Lee|
Arguably, at least in the sprints, Aidan O’Brien’s horses haven’t fired this week as many thought they would. Nor have Wesley Ward’s. They had well-fancied runners in the shape of favourite Cadamosto and Lucci but were out of luck in the opener.
The jockeys split into two distinct groups in the race with both factions matching each other for pace. As they reached the final furlong, it was clear it was going to be close. In the end, former champ Paul Hanagan just got there on the far side on Perfect Power by a head, Go Bears Go winning ‘his side’.
Project Dante, who had shown terrific pace on debut at York, was an excellent third. This race was all about pace and it really was relentless, the time being only a second behind standard.
3.05 – Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3) (CLASS 1) (3yo) 1m2f
|1st||Mohaafeth||11/8 Fav||William Haggas||Jim Crowley|
|2nd||Roman Empire||14/1||A P O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|3rd||Secret Protector||11/1||Charlie Appleby||James Doyle|
This race was partly about excellent trainer William Haggas vindicating his decision not to run Mohaafeth in the Derby. At Epsom, it was felt the ground was too soft for this excellent colt who has tons of potential. It was nice and quick on day three of Royal Ascot however and he was allowed to take his chance.
Given the weather, punters responded with Mohaafeth being backed from around 2/1 all the way into 11/8 favourite. During the race, he travelled like a good thing too under Jim Crowley and fireworks were expected.
Crowley pushed his mount to the lead just over a furlong from home and kicked clear. As the horse got a tad tired, he drifted to his right and snatched up second horse Roman Empire. He was never going to be beaten however, and the stewards after an enquiry left the placings as they were.
Mohaafeth showed on the day that he had a big future over a mile-and-a-quarter.
3.40 – Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2) (CLASS 1) (3yo fillies) 1m4f
|1st||Loving Dream||18/2||John & Thady Gosden||Robert Havlin|
|2nd||Eshaada||17/2||Roger Varian||Jim Crowley|
|3rd||Nicest||28/1||Donnacha O’Brien||Gavin Ryan|
The ‘Ascot Oaks’, as it is known colloquially, had another very strong favourite. The money horse was Sir Michael Stoute’s Noon Star, second to runaway Oaks winner Snowfall in the Musidora at York.
As it panned out however this race was a little too hot for her on the fast ground. Despite the Gosdens having the slightly more fancied Gloria Mundi in the race, it was their outsider Loving Dream who came with the best run in the straight.
Ridden by Rab Havlin, forever playing second-fiddle to Frankie Dettori, the daughter of Gleneagles was terrific. Pushed into the lead with still two furlongs to go, Loving Dream showed great determination to repel the onslaught provide by the late-finishing Eshaada to score by three quarters of a length.
4.15 – Gold Cup (British Champions Series) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 2m4f
|1st||Subjectivist||13/2||Mark Johnston||Joe Fanning|
|2nd||Princess Zoe||28/1||Anthony Mullins||J M Sheridan|
|3rd||Spanish Mission||7/1||Andrew Balding||William Buick|
After the defection of the talented Trueshan owing to the fast ground, this was all about Stradivarius. Could the greatest stayer of this generation land a record-equalling fourth Gold Cup? That was the question on everybody’s lips.
There were some not so great signs in the pre-parade ring however. Strad usually kicks and bucks and puts on a bit of a “look at me” show before races, which everyone loves. On this day however, he was a little too calm.
In the race itself, Frankie’s best pal sat near the back of the pack, allowing the front-runners to bowl along. Rival Subjectivist got to the lead and stole a few lengths on the bend and that proved to be crucial.
As Joe Fanning was kicking on up front, Stradivarius and Frankie got blocked in, took a bump and lost a few lengths. When the gaps opened, he took off but with little of his old gusto in truth.
Subjectivist was imperious up front, never looking like relinquishing his five-length lead. Reliable mare Princess Zoe ran on for second, while the talented Spanish Mission took third.
Stradivarius was fourth and may well have been runner-up without trouble in running. In truth however, he was never going to retain his crown as we witnessed a new bona fide champion on Gold Cup Day.
5.00 – Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo) 1m
|1st||Perotto||18/1||Marcus Tregoning||Oisin Murphy|
|2nd||Liffey River||20/1||Joseph O’Brien||Shane Crosse|
|3rd||Quintillus||28/1||Charlie Appleby||William Buick|
|Dubai Honour||28/1||William Haggas||Tom Marquand|
After the veritable storm of the Gold Cup came the (relative) calm of the Britannia Stakes. At least, it’s calm beforehand.
With 29 runners spread across the track, all of them three-year-olds, this is one tough race to call for punters and betting was extremely competitive.
It was a true blood and thunder contest with the near side winning the day this time. Perotto had struck the front but Quintillus, who had previously been a bit of a monkey, came full of running.
It was a terrific ride in the end from Oisin Murphy who punched his horse out for a narrow win. Liffey River ran on well for second, Quintillus very close up in third. The trio pulled well clear of their group on the stands side, giving the form a very solid look indeed.
5.35 – King George V Stakes (Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo) 1m4f
|1st||Surefire||5/1||Ralph Beckett||Hector Crouch|
|2nd||Sir Lamorak||4/1 Fav||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|3rd||Parachute||16/1||Ed Walker||Tom Marquand|
|4th||Siskany||15/2||Charlie Appleby||William Buick|
The penultimate race of the day was an absolutely pulsating affair. The pace appeared to be very strong right from the off and at least 15 finished very close together considering the 1m4f trip.
The form horses really came to the fore when it mattered. Previously thought of as a Derby horse, Sir Lamorak finished with a real rattle but just ran out of time at the end. This was to be Surefire’s day.
It proved to be a first ever Royal Ascot win for jockey Hector Crouch, and his effort deserved it. Sir Lamorak was a neck back in second with Parachute third. Surefire was strongly touted before the race, the gamble working nicely for those who got on.
Given the way the race panned out, it suited more staying types. In the 2021 and 2022 Ebor Handicap, it would be no surprise to see placed finishers having run in this race along the way.
The celebrations were huge among the crowd of owners connected to Parachute, while Godolphin’s Siskany backed up his very solid recent form with an excellent fourth-placed finish.
6.10 – Buckingham Palace Stakes (Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo+) 7f
|1st||Highfield Princess||18/1||John Quinn||Jason Hart|
|2nd||Danyah||10/1||Owen Burrows||Dane O’Neill|
|3rd||Riot||18/1||John & Thady Gosden||Oisin Murphy|
|4th||Lord Rapscallion||25/1||Stuart Williams||Marco Ghiani|
The rain just began to fall as Ascot approached the final race of a fascinating day of action. Nothing dampened the spirits however, nor the performance of these improving seven-furlong horses.
It was all about the high draw here, the first four all coming down the near side. The winner may well have got home in front no matter where it was drawn.
Highfield Princess absolutely bolted up in what was meant to be a close contest. She even bumped the rail in the closing stages, but nothing could stop her smashing this field.
The Shadwell horses, Danyah and hot favourite Aldaary, both ran well but this was all about the only filly in the entire field who dominated proceedings to score a massive win for trainer John Quinn. The result meant that yet another new name was added to the list of Royal Ascot winning jockeys, Jason Hart grabbing a deserved big-race success.
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