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Review of Royal Ascot 2012: an event with many memories

PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 June 2013 | UPDATED: 11:15 14 June 2013

Horses racing at Royal Ascot 2012

Horses racing at Royal Ascot 2012

Archant

Described as one of the greatest Royal Ascot meetings of all time, John O’Hara looks back on why 2012 will stay long in our memory

The contrasting performances of racing’s two global superstars, Frankel and Black Caviar, ensured that Royal Ascot 2012 will live long in the memories of those lucky enough to have attended the Royal racecourse during the meeting. Nick Smith and his Ascot team had pulled the biggest possible rabbit out of the hat when ensuring the brilliant Australian mare would run in the

Diamond Jubilee Stakes, while Frankel had long been targeted for the opening Queen Anne Stakes. Add to that a hugely popular victory for Her Majesty The Queen and this meeting had every ingredient to justifiably be described “the greatest show on earth.

Frankel exceeded even the most ambitious expectations when storming home to an 11-length victory over his old sparring partner Excelebration in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.

It was the fifth and final time the pair would cross swords and Sir Henry Cecil’s pride and joy made sure it was the most memorable as he put up arguably the greatest performance of his career.

This jaw-dropping romp over a mile had enthusiasts licking

their lips at the prospect of the champion running over further, and winning jockey Tom Queally did little to quell the fervour when he commented: “If he gets any better I will be pulling him up in Legoland” [a mile down the road]. Racegoers gave Prince Khalid’s peerless champion a welcome that had to be seen to be believed. Everybody knew they were in the presence of greatness and accorded him the respect he deserved.

Tuesday’s card is traditionally the strongest of the five days with three Group 1 races run in succession, and it was the Hong Kong-trained Little Bridge that took the honours at 12-1 in the King’s Stand Stakes. He took up the running a furlong out to hold off the strongly fancied Bated Breath by three-quarters of a length.

Kieren Fallon was at his most masterful when guiding Most Improved to a brave win in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the final Group 1 of the day. The six-time champion jockey took the bull by the horns turning for home and the outcome was never in doubt as he easily held off the French raider Hermival.

The most popular winner of the day for punters was Dawn Approach (7-2), who maintained his unbeaten record with a dominant display in the Coventry Stakes.

Sheikh Mohammed was sufficiently impressed to purchase the son of New Approach who justified his lofty opinion of him when winning this year’s 2000 Guineas.

Ireland’s greatest living National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins donned his top hat and tails for the week and made the journey a memorable one when Simenon took the Ascot Stakes under Ryan Moore. Little did racegoers know at the time but the maestro had another trick up his sleeve for the final day.

The opening day’s proceedings concluded with Hototo’s victory in the Windsor Castle Stakes for northern-based trainer Kevin Ryan.

Day two was another memorable one for the Irish with Aidan O’Brien completing a 37½-1 double. Having taken the opening Jersey Stakes with his stable’s second string Ishvana ridden by Seamie Heffernan, he went on to land the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes with So You Think. The big hitters piled in on the New Zealand-bred, who was runner-up 12 months earlier, resulting in his 4-5 SP. The Cox Plate winner was given a cool ride by trainer’s son Joseph to repel The Queen’s Carlton House. Sadly, it was to be the final appearance of So You Think who sustained an injury, hastening his move to Coolmore, Australia.

John Gosden, who enjoyed a remarkable 2012 season, got his first winner on the board for the week when Joviality, running in the colours of Princess Haya of Jordan, took the Windsor Forest Stakes. Under a strong ride from William Buick she held off Chachamaidee in a thrilling finish by a neck.

Trainer Tom Tate gave northern visitors something to cheer about when his Prince of Johanne beat 29 rivals to land the annual cavalry charge better known as the Royal Hunt Cup.

Ceiling Kitty poured more pressure on punters when she became the fourth double-figure SP winner of the afternoon when successful in the Queen Mary Stakes for Betfair founder Andrew Black and his co-owners The Master Bettors.

However, it was the Irish who enjoyed the last laugh when Wayne Lordan’s mount Duntle beat Arsaadi by half a length to take the Sandringham Stakes for trainer David Wachman.

Godolphin landed a remarkable fifth Gold Cup when Colour Vision held off stablemate Opinion Poll to give the boys in blue a famous one-two. This was the seventh time Sheikh Mohammed, the brains behind Godolphin, had been involved with a Gold Cup winner as Sadeem won twice in his maroon and white colours in the late eighties. It was also a significant win for Frankie Dettori, who hadn’t been enjoying a great season, as the Italian maestro gave Mickael Barzalona, the young pretender, a lesson with a peerless ride on the winner. In a packed Winners’ Enclosure Sheikh Mohammed hailed Dettori “a great jockey”, but their record-breaking partnership would end in the autumn with Dettori announcing he was going freelance. Dubai’s ruler was certainly taken with Reckless Abandon, the winner of the day’s opening contest, the Norfolk Stakes, as he later purchased the colt who would go on to win the Middle Park Stakes.

Princess Highway continued the great week for the Irish when coming home six lengths clear of Lady Lloyd Webber’s smart filly The Fugue in the Ribblesdale Stakes.

It was a poignant victory for Dermot Weld, the Curragh-based handler as he took this race back in 2002 with Irresistable Jewel, who is the dam of none other than Princess Highway!

Ryan Moore rode his second winner of the week aboard Fast Or Free (6-1) when winning the Britannia Stakes for William Haggas. He was the only winning favourite of the day, as the results continued to go in favour of the bookmakers.

Germany added to the international flavour of the week when Energizer ran out an easy winner of the Tercentenary Stakes. His confident trainer Jens Hirschberger wasn’t at all surprised at the result, saying: “I know this is Royal Ascot, but I was expecting that.”

Mark Johnston continued his great record at the Royal Meeting when Fennell Bay took the King George V Stakes in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum.

Day four was dominated by the Gosden/Buick team as they completed a 142-1 treble headed by Fallen For You.

Favourite backers must have been hopeful of a better day as Newfangled (7-4) took the opening Albany Stakes with William Buick needing only hands and heels urgings to win.

Fallen For You ran out an impressive winner of the Group 1 Coronation Stakes with stablemate Starscope 3¼ lengths back in second. Despite being returned at 11-1 Gosden observed: “She is classy, this is not a fluke.”

The Clarehaven team crowned a fantastic afternoon when Gatewood got the better of a three-way photo finish to take the Wolferton Handicap.

Sir Henry Cecil continued his remarkable love affair with the Royal Meeting when saddling Thomas Chippendale to take the King Edward VII Stakes. The imposing colt, owned by Sir Robert Ogden, got the better of stablemate Noble Mission (Frankel’s brother) by half a length.

Sir Michael Stoute, second only to Cecil in the number of winners trained at the Royal Meeting, had to wait for the Queen’s Vase before getting his name on the score sheet. His timing couldn’t have been better as the impressive stayer, Estimate, owned by Her Majesty The Queen, who never had an anxious moment watching her impressive filly, she drew five lengths clear in the final furlong. The paddock was full to capacity as racegoers were eager to congratulate the winning owner as she welcomed back her pride and joy.

Eton Forever, trained by Roger Varian, was the longest-priced winner of the day when taking the Buckingham Palace Stakes at 14-1.

despite the brilliance of Frankel, it was the Australian superstar Black Caviar that had attracted the most attention ahead of her appearance in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. The thousands of Antipodeans who turned out to welcome their equine queen to the Royal racecourse were brimming with confidence about her chances, but they had more than the odd scare before she justified their optimism. She took up the running a furlong out to the delight of the thronging stands, but failed to sprint away as expected and held on by only a head to make it 22 wins from as many starts. Jockey Luke Nolen felt he always had matters in hand, but that wasn’t the view of the majority of Grandstand observers.

Frankie Dettori provided a great start for the bumper crowd when taking the Chesham Stakes on Tha’Ir, while Ryan Moore was equally popular when guiding 3-1 favourite Sea Moon to an easy success in the Hardwicke Stakes.

It was hardly surprising that Dandy Boy wasn’t greeted with the same fervour as Black Caviar after he became the longest-priced winner of the week, at 33-1, following his shock success in the Wokingham Stakes.

John Gosden and William Buick crowned a spectacular week for their team when Camborne obliged in the penultimate race of the meeting, the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap.

Yet on this most memorable of Royal Meetings there was one last great feat to be completed and it involved the remarkable Willie Mullins. Ireland’s champion Jumps trainer had won the Ascot Stakes with Simenon on the opening day and felt his horse was well enough to do himself justice in the meeting finale, the Queen Alexandra Stakes. The punting public, who hadn’t enjoyed the best of weeks, put their faith in the Mullins magic and were duly rewarded with a seven-length win for Simenon. It was a remarkable double to bring the curtain down on what will surely go down as one of the greatest Royal Meetings of all time.

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The above is featured in the 2013 edition of Royal Ascot Magazine.

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