The Prince of Wales’s Stakes looked a high-class renewal on the second day of Royal Ascot, with some closely-matched performers boasting top-class form, yet Mostahdaf blew his rivals away with a devastating turn of foot to take the mile-and-a-quarter showpiece and make his breakthrough at Group 1 level.
Favourite Luxembourg and Ryan Moore set out to make the running, a tactic that proved successful in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in May, but they didn’t get an easy lead on this occasion, with American challenger Classic Causeway and Julien Leparoux keeping close tabs on their outside.
Adayar, Bay Bridge and My Prospero were asked to improve their positions as the field turned into the home straight but circling them all on the outside was Mostahdaf under Jim Crowley, who surged to the front with two furlongs to run.
At this point the race was effectively over as a contest, with Mostahdaf galloping on powerfully against toiling rivals, relishing the quick ground and ten-furlong trip. The son of Frankel crossed the line four lengths clear of the one-paced Luxembourg, with Adayar half a length way in third.
Mostahdaf, trained by John and Thady Gosden, looks set to contest all the big mile-and-a-quarter races this season, with the Juddmonte International at York on August 23 the likely next target.
John Gosden said: “I was expecting Mostahdaf to pick up well in the straight but not to make them look like they were standing still. But he did that in Riyadh; he won the Neom Cup and just flew away. When the ground dries up, he’s a brilliant horse.
“We were going to run him in the Brigadier Gerard, but he hadn’t quite recovered from his Middle Eastern campaign. If you check the form book, he took on a certain Japanese horse [Equinox] in the Sheema Classic. And a mile and a half is beyond him – he’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse, but he was the one who put it up to them and gave it his best go, but what a horse the Japanese horse is.
“What’s the plan now? That might have been the plan! I always find the Eclipse comes too close. I’d wait for the Juddmonte International; that would be the race for me. He likes to run fresh – too many nights out on the town, we don’t bounce like we used to! I think the Juddmonte International should be the big target.”
Frankie Dettori suffered some near misses and received a nine-day ban on the opening day of what is set to be his final Royal Ascot, but he got on the scoresheet in the penultimate race of the day, guiding Gregory to victory in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase, helping team Gosden to a double on the afternoon.
The Italian maestro rode a canny race on the son of Golden Horn, winner of both his previous starts, as he sent him to the front in the 14-furlong contest, controlled the fractions and kept enough up his sleeve to hold off Saint George by a length and a half.
Dettori said: “I thought this winner was never going to come this year. I had three seconds yesterday, but I thought this horse was my best chance today.
“I knew this horse was good enough, but I wasn’t so sure about his experience. He is very laid-back at home, and I thought if he doesn’t jump, he will get lost, but he jumped great, I got him to the front and I knew he would stay very well.
“I was in front for a long time and, when Oisin [Murphy, on runner-up Saint George] came to me, I thought ‘Oh, no, not another second’. To this horse’s credit he really stuck his neck out.
“He was like a sleeping giant in the yard, and all of a sudden he’s a Royal Ascot winner. Potentially, he could be a nice St Leger horse for the end of the season, but John and Thady will work something out.
“It’s my last Royal Ascot and to ride a winner is fantastic. It’s amazing the reception I got because it’s my last season – I’m both sad and happy. I’ve got another three days here and it’s nice to get one on the board.
“Ascot very kindly gave me a box for my family today and most of them are here, so I’m glad I could ride a winner in front of them.”
Day two of Royal Ascot opened with a win for the USA in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes (5f) as Crimson Advocate and John Velazquez held off the late rattle of Relief Rally and Tom Marquand to take the 26-runner juvenile prize by a nose.
Winning trainer George Weaver, who told Owner Breeder’s June issue that he “got his ass kicked” the last time he brought a horse to run at the meeting in 2015, said: “I have so much respect for the horses over here. It always seems like the European horses are better grass horses than what we have, but I knew our filly was very talented and I was hoping that she would be able to get the job done. Don’t get me wrong, the way she won at Gulfstream, I was very excited about her, but like I said, I have tremendous respect for the trainers and horses that are over here.
“I came here eight years ago with a horse [Cyclogenesis] that wasn’t good enough. I thought it would be great if I could ever come back with something that was, and we did. When you try to plan things, you try to buy horses for Ascot, it never works out. Things just come together, and this year we’ve got two nice horses to bring over here.
“Royal Ascot is Royal Ascot, what can you say? You can feel the electricity when you’re here and how special it is, and it’s a beautiful feather for us to have in our cap. It’s not the biggest purse I’ve ever won – Vekoma was a tremendous racehorse and I won the Dubai Golden Shaheen early on in 2005 [with Saratoga County]. I’ve had some great moments, but this ranks right up there.”
Rogue Millennium had been campaigned over middle distances prior to the Royal Meeting but the daughter of Dubawi made her first start over a mile a winning one in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes.
Danny Tudhope delivered the four-year-old filly, trained by Tom Clover for The Rogues Gallery, with a perfectly-timed challenge inside the final half-furlong to catch the front-running Random Harvest and take the spoils by a neck.
Clover said: “It hasn’t really sunk in, to be honest. It’s unbelievable, really. You dream about this all year round, and we managed to go to the sales with our team to buy this filly for 35,000 grand for The Rogues [Gallery, owners], who have been huge supporters of mine. It’s just been amazing. It’s what we all do it for. I love the filly, I love training for The Rogues, and she’s just the most wonderful filly.
“Rogue Millennium is gorgeous to look at and she’s just improved from three to four. She just travels so strongly. You see her with Free Wind in the Middleton, but she obviously outstayed us that day. In her work at home early on, she was travelling really well behind six or seven-furlong horses and finding it very easy. She’ll obviously be a broodmare at some stage and it’s lovely to have some black type.”
Ralph Beckett produced a fine training performance by saddling a one-two in the ultra-competitive Royal Hunt Cup (1m), as Jimi Hendrix and Rossa Ryan outpointed stable companion Sonny Liston and Ryan Moore, with both horses owned by the Chelsea Thoroughbreds.
Irish ace Colin Keane broke his Ascot hoodoo by riding a first winner at the track, landing the Kensington Palace Fillies’ Handicap (1m) on the Jessica Harrington-trained Villanova Queen for owner William Crager, while the closing Listed Windsor Castle Stakes (5f) saw the Mick Appleby-trained Big Evs strike under Jason Hart in the RP Racing Ltd silks.