While the behemoths of Coolmore and Godolphin slugged it out in the race to be leading owner at Royal Ascot with six winners apiece, the week had something for everyone involved at almost every level of the game, including some notable victories for syndicates.
Without doubt the most popular victory of the meeting was the outstanding front-running effort of Big Orange in the Gold Cup, as he held off last year’s winner Order Of St George with a do-or-die performance that has made him so beloved of the racing public.
Had Bill Gredley offered his homebred for sale as a yearling there’d have been few takers for the gangly son of the commercially unpopular Duke Of Marmalade
The great irony, of course, is that had Bill Gredley offered his homebred for sale as a yearling there’d have been few takers for the gangly son of the commercially unpopular Duke Of Marmalade. The six-year-old is certainly no oil painting even now, but he has won enough prize-money to buy his owner-breeder an Old Master, with more than £1 million in takings from his nine victories, six of which have come at Group level. So, as our American friends might say, “What’s not to like?”
Sadly there’s still not a lot of love out there at the sales for the staying horse, but the runaway commercial juggernaut, while not yet performing a u-turn, is perhaps starting to slow in its tracks as greater efforts are made by both the TBA and BHA to enhance the appeal of the offspring of middle-distance stallions.
Gredley must be in contention to be heralded as the leading British breeder at Ascot on the popular vote but at the other end of the distance spectrum there was an equally impressive performance for The Tin Man, a son of Newsells Park Stud’s Equiano – himself a dual winner of the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot – and bred in Hertfordshire by Elizabeth and Ken Grundy. From the same mare Persario (Bishop Of Cashel), the Grundys, in partnership with Peter and Jan Hopper, also bred Deacon Blues, who, like his half-brother, won the QIPCO British Champions Sprint. Quite some achievement, not just for the mare, but also the horses’ small breeders and trainer James Fanshawe.
Of the Godolphin sextet, Benbatl and Sound And Silence were both homebred stakes winners by Darley stallions Dubawi and Exceed And Excel, while Highclere Stud and Floors Farming combined to breed Godolphin’s Duke of Edinburgh winner Rare Rhythm, another son of Dubawi. The outfit’s Irish-foaled Permian also landed another tough victory for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed in the King Edward Vll Stakes.
Bjorn Nielsen was responsible for Godolphin’s King George V Stakes winner Atty Persse – a first Royal Ascot winner for Frankel out of the Group-placed Listed winner Dorcas Lane. But greater excitement was to come for Nielsen, who saw his own colours carried to victory by his homebred Stradivarius in the Queen’s Vase, now happily boosted to Group 2 status but reduced in distance to 1m6f.
Denford Stud, which was represented by the Albany Stakes winner Illuminate at the Royal meeting two years ago, has another good filly on the track in the form of Ribblesdale Stakes heroine Coronet, while Willie and Elaine Carson’s Minster Stud contributed to a fruitful spell for Shadwell’s Nayef when Snoano won the Listed Wolferton Handicap for Tim Easterby and owner Martyn Macleod.
Gallant stayer Thomas Hobson, who so nearly brought up the double in the same two races as his erstwhile stablemate Simenon, couldn’t quite snag the Queen Alexandra Stakes but reminded us of the worth of the Dick Hollingsworth bloodlines when taking the Ascot Stakes on the opening day and setting up a possible trip to Melbourne in the process.
Thomas Hobson traces back to Hollingsworth’s 1980 Oaks winner Bireme, a family which was successfully represented again in the 2013 running of the fillies’ Classic by Bireme’s great grand-daughter Talent. Bred in partnership by Hollingsworth’s nephew Mark Dixon and Mount Coote Stud, the seven-year-old Thomas Hobson combined with the juvenile filly Heartache to provide a memorable week for Mount Coote’s Luke Lillingston.
Along with former TBA board member Sam Hoskins, Lillingston developed the Hot To Trot Racing syndicate which specialises in leasing fillies from breeders for their racing careers. Hot To Trot has struck up a particularly fruitful relationship with the Harpers of Whitsbury Manor Stud, who bred Heartache, a fourth-generation member of a notably speedy family at the Hampshire nursery. So far, all five fillies leased by Whitsbury Manor have won as two-year-olds, with Kyllachy’s daughter Heartache the obvious standout among them to date.
Plenty of breeders have explored the leasing route and, while there are obvious pitfalls, there can be plenty to gain in having kept hold of a filly who suddenly increases her paddock value markedly through her exploits on the racecourse. Time will tell if it becomes easier to sell fillies but, just as with the stayers, the TBA has been putting plenty of effort into promoting the distaffers through its #ThisFillyCan campaign. Performances such as those posted during Royal Ascot by Lady Aurelia and September, both of whom more than held their own in mixed company, can only help. Let’s hear it for the girls.