Aidan O’Brien’s decision to supplement Circus Maximus for the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes was vindicated on Tuesday when the three-year-old colt captured the mile contest in gutsy fashion.
Having last been sighted finishing sixth behind stablemate Anthony Van Dyck in the Derby, the heavy rain that hit Ascot brought Circus Maximus’s stamina into play.
Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain looked to be in pole position turning for home but as his challenge faded, Circus Maximus kept finding more under the drive of Ryan Moore. The pair scored by a neck from the fast-finishing King Of Comedy and Too Darn Hot, both trained by John Gosden.
The Niarchos family bred Circus Maximus out of their Duke of Cambridge Stakes-winning Danehill Dancer mare Duntle and own the colt in partnership with Coolmore. Not only did Duntle strike in a 2013 Group 2 contest at the Royal meeting, she was also victorious in the Listed Sandringham Handicap in 2012.
Moore said: “He’s got plenty of speed and his dam Duntle was good. He’s not short of pace, but he’s just a little bit slow coming to himself and learning about it all.
“Fair play to Aidan who called me on Monday morning to say he was putting him in. I thought if you supplement you have to win, but he knew this horse had talent.
“He ran a good race in the Derby and just didn’t stay. When Too Darn Hot got to me, he didn’t go by me and I knew he would keep finding.”
O’Brien and Moore’s victory was the second leg of an opening day double following the highly-fancied Arizona’s success in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes.
Arizona had come into the race off the back of an impressive eight-length win at Leopardstown in May and he showed why he is so highly regarded by the master of Ballydoyle, seeing off the Richard Hannon-trained Threat.
The two-year-old is by rising Coolmore sire No Nay Never, who struck at the Royal meeting in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes in 2013. Arizona becomes the 11th stakes winner supplied by the son of Scat Daddy since he retired to stud at Coolmore’s Irish base.
O’Brien said: “I’m delighted with Arizona and Ryan gave him a great ride. He was very green first time out, and then won very easily next time, but probably didn’t learn a lot because of that, so this is the first day that he has to learn. He was a little bit slowly away and a little bit lost through the race but came home really well.
“He’s a fine, big horse and we’ll look forward to next year. You’d imagine he will be a miler. He’s probably quicker than he lets on, because he’s still a baby, but you’d always think he’d have no problem getting 7f.”
Glitters enters the limelight
Having so nearly captured the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes last year, the David O’Meara-trained Lord Glitters was the bridesmaid no more when he took the opening contest of the Royal meeting by a neck.
Lord Glitters had produced a gallant effort in 2018 when second behind Accidental Agent, who this year remained firmly rooted in his stall as the gates opened. Kept handy by regular jockey Danny Tudhope, Lord Glitters emerged from the pack a furlong from home to lay down his bid for glory.
By then, the challenges of five-time Group 1 winner Laurens and comeback horse Barney Roy had waned. That left Beat The Bank, the onrushing One Master and Lord Glitters to battle out the finish.
It was Geoff and Sandra Turnbull’s gallant grey who outlasted his rivals, denying Beat The Bank by a neck to register a first Group 1 triumph. The Turnbulls are no stranger to success at the highest level, having had their colours carried with distinction by dual Group/Grade 1 hero Mondialiste.
Nick Turnbull, son of Geoff and Sandra Turnbull, said: “It means everything. My dad has been in this game for 20 years and this is the pinnacle. To get to this point is fantastic.”
O’Meara said: “Lord Glitters had no cover in the Lockinge and today I thought Danny gave him a pitch-perfect ride. It was brilliant from the word go and it was one of the easiest Royal Ascot runners we’ve had to watch as there was a never moment I thought he was in trouble.”
Tudhope was back in the winner’s enclosure later in the afternoon after he linked up with trainer William Haggas to partner Addeybb to an impressive victory in the Listed Wolferton Stakes.
Blue Point delivers again
Godolphin’s star sprinter Blue Point duly delivered at the Royal meeting again when he secured back-to-back victories in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes.
The five-year-old was up against old rival Battaash, who was bidding to go one better than his second-placed finish last year. Ridden from off the pace by Jim Crowley, Battaash threw down a strong challenge inside the final furlong but the Charlie Appleby-trained Blue Point found extra under James Doyle to score by a length and a quarter.
Appleby said: “We’ve all been very involved with this horse and it’s great that William [Buick] is here today. More importantly, thanks to the team at home as they’ve done a fantastic job looking after this horse right from his two-year-old career.
“Back-to-back wins in this race is fantastic for him as I know Blue Point is going to have a great career at stud come the end of the season.
“We noticed ourselves during the winter how much more professional he was and how he has strengthened. When William got off him in his first start in Dubai, he said this is a different animal we’re dealing with now. He’s the finished article.”
Williams on the mark
The Grand Visir defied top weight of 9st 10lb in the Ascot Stakes to give trainer Ian Williams his first winner at the Royal meeting, getting the better of the Willie Mullins-trained Buildmeupbuttercup.
A son of Frankel, The Grand Visir revelled in the soft conditions and the stamina-inducing trip brought out the best in him as he came from a long way back to clinch the 2m4f prize under Richard Kingscote.