Few jockeys ride Ascot’s straight course better than Jamie Spencer and the racegoers in attendance on the final day of this year’s Royal Meeting were reminded of the rider’s talents as he guided longshot Khaadem to a shock success in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes.
Highfield Princess, runner-up in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday, was sent off favourite in her bid to go one better while international challengers Artorius, Big Invasion, Cannonball, Coeur De Pierre, The Astrologist and Wellington added spice to the six-furlong contest.
Aussie runner Cannonball, another that contested the King’s Stand Stakes, dislodged Danny Tudhope at the start as the remaining 15 runners split into three groups.
The Astrologist led a group of six runners on the far side, with Khaadem settled at the back of that sextet by Spencer, while Art Power and Artorius raced in the centre of the track and Highfield Princess headed the larger group on the nearside.
The far side group looked to have an advantage entering the final couple of furlongs as Sacred and Tom Marquand made their bid for glory. Sacred kicked a couple of lengths clear but chasing hard was Khaadem. As the duo raced towards the line it was Khaadem who edged past the mare to score by a neck, with Highfield Princess a length and a quarter away in third.
Khaadem, a seven-year-old Dark Angel gelding, was winning his first top-level race at the eighth attempt for trainer Charlie Hills and owners Jim and Fitri Hay. Sent off at 80-1, he became the longest-priced scorer in the race’s illustrious history.
Hills said: “Khaadem does have his quirks, but most sprinters do. It’s just amazing that we’ve got to where we have now at his age. I have always had massive faith in this horse, that’s why I’ve kept him for so long.
“He won a Group 2 last year over five, and that’s what we were sort of doing. But this year, I wanted to try and race him properly again, drop him in, and make sure we got the six furlongs well. He won the Stewards’ Cup as a three-year-old, so the trip was never a concern, but he is very fast.
“He is a high-energised horse, who has just taken time to come to himself. Jamie Insole rides him out every morning and there has been a great team effort with this horse through his career. It really is the icing on the cake today.
“We have been trying to win this for a while and had some good chances over the years. We’ve had a tough week this week and to win a race like this – the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee – is just fantastic.”
Spencer said: “I felt no pressure. I followed Frankie [Dettori on Kinross] and Tom [Marquand on runner-up Sacred] and could see Tom was going well at halfway. So just like in a cycling race you let him do the work for you and, you hope that when you pull out, you have a little bit to fire.
“It is difficult for me to put into words what Jim and Fitri [Hay] have been like as friends to me for a long time. Even my children are watching now and, in years before, when I was flying at this meeting, they were too young to understand – now it’s nice when you get texts from them saying well done.”
Pyledriver, winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last year, made a successful seasonal return in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (1m4f) under PJ McDonald.
The six-year-old son of Harbour Watch, trained by William Muir and Chris Grassick for the La Pyle Partnership, proved too strong for West Wind Blows, coming home a ready length-and-a-quarter winner despite hanging right inside the final furlong.
Muir said: “I know how much this horse will improve. Yes, he rolled around, but he was on fumes. There are loads of people to thank. The lad who looks after him, Pyledriver bit him today and he has got a great big haematoma on his arm, and he said it is a ‘love bite’.
“Jeta, who rides him, told me after his last piece of work that we were back to where we were before the Sheema Classic. I knew he was a class horse, and I knew he would be competitive – he never knows when to chuck it in, but I did think match fitness might catch us out.
“He rolled around in the St Leger, and ‘they’ said it was Martin Dwyer, he is not a good jockey – I tell you Martin is a great jockey and made this horse what he is today.
“We will see how he is tonight, tomorrow, the next day – but the King George will be next all being well. This is what we dream to have horses like this. The owners were offered fortunes for him as a three-year-old, and they have been so loyal to the horse.”
Hollie Doyle landed her third win of the week aboard Saint Lawrence in the Wokingham Handicap (6f) for boss Archie Watson and owner-breeder John Deer, while Aidan O’Brien’s apparent second-string Age Of Kings took the Group 3 Jersey Stakes under Wayne Lordan.
The Michael Bell-trained Burdett Road, owned by the Gredley family, took the Golden Gate Stakes (1m2f) under the in-form Neil Callan while the longest race of the meeting, the Queen Alexandra Stakes over an extended two miles and five furlongs, closed the week’s action and saw Ryan Moore guide the Joseph O’Brien-trained favourite Dawn Rising to victory for owner JP McManus.
Moore’s sixth success of the week saw his Royal Ascot total move to 79 winners, two behind Frankie Dettori, as he was crowned leading riding at the meeting for the tenth time.