It’s an often-repeated phrase in racing that you should never be afraid of one horse and so it proved at Ascot on Saturday as Bay Bridge triumphed in the Group 1 Champion Stakes (1m2f), despite his trainer Sir Michael Stoute fearing odds-on favourite Baaeed was unbeatable.
Ten from ten coming into the race, Baaeed failed to cope with the most testing ground he had faced and never looked like extending his winning sequence under regular pilot Jim Crowley.
Bay Bridge, owned by James Wigan and Ballylinch Stud, had not been seen since finishing fifth in the Coral-Eclipse in July, but his master handler is an expert at producing runners in peak shape for the big races and the four-year-old made light of his 105-day absence to record a gutsy success under Derby-winning jockey Richard Kingscote.
Settled in third as Stone Age set the pace, with the nine-runner field racing away from the rail, Bay Bridge was still travelling sweetly as he moved into the lead turning for home, although Mr Prospero and Adayar were also launching their bids on his outside.
Adayar and William Buick appeared to move into a slight lead, but Bay Bridge put his head down and galloped on powerfully under Kingscote, edging ahead a furlong from home and staying on strongly to see off Adayar by half a length, with My Prospero a nose away in third.
Baaeed never travelled with his customary zest and there was no sign of the exceptional turn of foot that had helped him win six top-level contests. He finished fourth and a career at stud now looms for Shadwell’s brilliant four-year-old.
Stoute said: “Bay Bridge was very brave. I’m absolutely thrilled. The staff have done a great job with this horse. We’re all delighted.
“He was in very good shape. He came back from Sandown with a knock and we had to back off him. He’s been very consistent this year with the exception of that race.
“We thought the favourite was unbeatable – or I did. I thought he had a great chance of being second because he was in terrific shape.”
New Bay, the sire of Bay Bridge stationed with Ballylinch Stud in Ireland, enjoyed an afternoon to remember, with his son Bayside Boy causing an upset in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1m) under Tom Marquand.
Marquand’s wife, Hollie Doyle, was also on the scoresheet as Trueshan toughed it out in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup, getting the better of Coltrane and David Probert to provide the Alan King-trained stayer with his third straight victory in the two-mile contest.
Frankie Dettori may have been out of luck on Inspiral in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes yet the Italian still secured a Group 1 double. Kinross, trained by Ralph Beckett for Marc Chan, recorded a smooth success in the Sprint Stakes (6f) while the John and Thady Gosden-trained Emily Upjohn bounced back to form with a decisive victory in the Fillies & Mares Stakes for owners Lloyd Webber, Tactful Finance and S Roden.
The closing Balmoral Handicap (1m) went to 80-1 rank outsider Shelir under Jason Watson, riding for trainer David O’Meara.