Less than a fortnight apart this season, Epsom’s Derby meeting and Royal Ascot served the perfect highly concentrated reminder of all that is wonderful about Flat racing in Britain.
As ROA President Rachel Hood says in her column this month, we must not be fooled by these two glittering occasions into believing that British racing doesn’t still have problems to address, but most of us were seduced by racing in the first place with performances of the calibre of those laid down by Australia and Taghrooda at Epsom, and for fleeting moments under bright summer skies, it’s important to be able just to stand and stare.
The Union Jack was flying high at both racecourses and with good cause as it transpired, as plenty of major winners of the last few weeks have carried the GB suffix, including the Derby and the Oaks winner.
Though named for an equally passionate racing nation on the opposite side of the world, Australia led home a trifecta of British-breds in the colts’ Classic, with the locally born Kingston Hill taking second and Romsdal, a grandson of the Barnett family’s Irish Oaks winner Pure Grain, finishing third. In fact, six of the first seven home in the Derby were foaled in Britain, with the Irish-bred Arod bagging fourth ahead of Red Galileo, Western Hymn and True Story.
Taghrooda, the first Classic winner for her Derby-winning sire Sea The Stars, is at the vanguard of a rejuvenated team of horses bearing Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s silks this season, and she became her owner/breeder’s first UK Classic winner since Ghanaati’s 1,000 Guineas triumph of 2009.
Peter Stanley does a sterling job in managing his brother Lord Derby’s Stanley House Stud and in running his own New England Stud on the opposite side of Newmarket. The former had much cause for celebration in producing a Derby winner from their homebred dual Oaks winner Ouija Board, who now shares a paddock at the stud with her daughter and Australia’s full-sister Filia Regina. New England Stud also featured among the Oaks success stories as Volume, who was just touched off for second by the fast-finishing Tarfasha – bringing up the quinella for Sheikh Hamdan – was born and raised there for her Australian owner/breeder Stuart Stuckey. Alongside Volume’s dam Victoire Finale in the New England paddocks is Demerger, dam of dual King’s Stand Stakes winner Sole Power, another British-bred success story for breeder Geoff Russell.
Almost within hollering distance of Tattenham Corner is Albert Perry’s Woodcote Stud, which is ably managed by Barry Reilly and was responsible not only for Derby runner-up Kingston Hill but also Oaks fourth Inchila. The homebred daughter of Dylan Thomas reappeared in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Ascot and was sadly pulled up with a fractured pelvis. We send her and the team at Woodcote Stud our best wishes for a successful recovery.
Other notable triumphs at Royal Ascot for GB-breds included our cover star Kingman’s scintillating victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes, as well as an equally breathtaking comeback by The Fugue, who claimed some serious scalps in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber’s homebred daughter of Dansili and Lady Bamford’s King Edward VII Stakes winner Eagle Top continued John Gosden’s royal purple patch, while Integral won the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes in the patriotic colours of Cheveley Park Stud. Sheikh Hamdan’s summer was further enhanced by the Royal Ascot homebred double secured by Mustajeeb and Muteela in the Jersey Stakes and Sandringham Handicap.
Much has been made of the exciting group of second-crop sires available in Europe – including the Classic scorers Sea The Stars, Mastercraftsman and Le Havre – but there’s been plenty to keep tabs on in the freshman division, too.
Cappella Sansevero, a Listed-winning first-crop son of Showcasing, topped the inaugural Goffs London Sale at £1.3 million and finished second in the Coventry Stakes less than 24 hours later, while Rathasker Stud’s Fast Company is reponsible for the Epsom and Ascot stakes winner Baitha Alga. And there’s one young sire sadly no longer available in Ireland who looks very promising indeed. A Royal Ascot Group 2 double courtesy of The Wow Signal and Anthem Alexander meant that the Union Jacks had to give way temporarily at Ascot to a Starspangledbanner.