It was a race that was meant to see Stradivarius equal Yeats’s record of four Gold Cup wins but the script was well truly ripped up as Subjectivist was crowned the new hero of the staying scene at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.
With Frankie Dettori and Stradivarius caught in a pocket as pace-setter Amhran Na Bhifann drifted back through the field, Joe Fanning seized the initiative at the front with Subjectivist before the turn for home.
As Subjectivist raced away there was still a wall of horses for Stradivarius to weave through, but the deficit was too much for the great stayer to overcome, as he came home in fourth place.
There had been doubts as to whether Subjectivist would stay the two and a half mile trip but he proved those thoughts all wrong as he recorded a five-length victory over Irish challenger Princess Zoe, with Spanish Mission half a length further back in third.
Subjectivist was providing trainer Mark Johnston with a fourth success in the Gold Cup having won the race in 2001 and 2002 with Royal Rebel and saddling Double Trigger to success in the 1995 edition.
Johnston said: “We thought in the wintertime that Subjectivist was so much on the up. He won in France last season on heavy ground and people were thinking he needed heavy ground to excel. But then he went to Dubai and that was the big question mark, could he go on fast ground?
“That was the performance of his life and I couldn’t be confident coming here that he could replicate it after such a long time off and a big gap in between. I knew if he could reproduce that, he would take an awful lot of beating.
“I was really happy throughout the race. We never tell the jockey to lead, we just say to go the pace that suits our horse and Joe is the master at it. When he is sitting second like that, settled and relaxed with a horse giving him a beautiful lead in front, I thought it was perfect.
“With half a mile to go, I knew we were going into new territory, but he hadn’t asked for any effort yet. He had a beautiful ride round and we knew how he could finish from Dubai, and he did that again.
“I thought he was the best horse we’ve taken Stradivarius on with, but we had a scare just after the Dubai race, so he’s missed quite a bit of work after that. The preparations have not been smooth in that 45 minutes after his run in Dubai, he was filling in one leg and we thought that would be serious.
“When he came home from Dubai, he had scans at Newmarket, so he had lots of time off. Then in Middleham last week, he skinned both knees and one hock. The only positive was that Attraction did a similar thing before winning the Queen Mary and that didn’t stop her either.”
Winning owner Dr Jim Walker added: “It’s nice to be in the winner’s enclosure at Ascot for once!
“It was almost a re-run of the Dubai Gold Cup. I just thought at that point Joe had him, and it was going to be everything else that was going to have to try and catch him – and that’s hard.
“It’s the pinnacle [winning the Gold Cup], because this is my division – staying – same as Mark, so it’s fantastic.”
Loving Dream wins the Ribblesdale
Trevor and Libby Harris of Lordship Stud were provided with a first homebred Royal Ascot winner when Loving Dream sprang a surprise to take the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes.
By Gleneagles out of the Listed-winning Danehill Dancer mare Kissable, Loving Dream’s third dam is none other than Eva Luna, the dam of Group 1 winner Brian Boru as well as the Group winners Sea Moon and Moon Search.
Libby Harris said: “It was unbelievable really, the way she battled on, galloped, always quickened when the other horse came to her, she was so game and genuine, it’s just fantastic to see that.
“Rab [Havlin] gave her an absolutely amazing ride – from that draw, it’s unbelievable, and to have a homebred filly, for the stud and all their tireless work, it’s just wonderful.
“We’ve never had a homebred Royal Ascot winner, so that is amazing, and it takes a long time to come. It’s a very, very special moment, it really is.”
Mohaafeth survives inquiry
William Haggas has made no secret that exciting prospect Mohaafeth would favour firm conditions and the trainer was proved right when the three-year-old son of Frankel won the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes.
The colt had bypassed this month’s Derby owing to the soft ground at Epsom and was clearly travelling the best on the outside of the field as they raced into the home straight at the Berkshire venue.
Mohaafeth faced the challenge of Roman Empire and as jockey Jim Crowley asked for more, the colt’s greenness came to the fore as he began to drift right and interfere with Roman Empire before winning by a length and three-quarters.
A stewards’ inquiry was called but no alteration was made to the placings.
Crowley said: “We’ve always liked him. It was a funny race – they went flat out down to the bend and there was a lot of bouncing around in front of me going on. I ended up getting there way too soon, he lugged into the and wasn’t doing a stroke in front.”
Haggas added: “I never thought it was the wrong decision [to miss Epsom], but obviously I was pleased when Jim came in and said it was absolutely the right decision not to run in the Derby. I think he showed he wasn’t actually powering away today, so maybe that’s his trip or even shorter, never mind longer.
“Jim said ‘I think this is his trip’. So, we will stick to a mile and a quarter, and I guess if ever we go one way, it might be shorter.
“Mohaafeth has not tackled an older horse yet, he has a lot to prove, but I think he has got some talent. I don’t make comparisons with any others, but he is a useful horse, is bred to be a nice horse and I thought he looked great today. He doesn’t look a stayer physically.
“He is in lots of things, including the Eclipse. It just can’t be soft or good to soft, he is a real quick ground horse.
“Sheikh Hamdan was great to all of us. He was a charming man and a huge supporter of British racing in particular. So, to win here for his family, who hopefully now will take up the mantle and set Shadwell on its way – this is a great start and I hope for many, many more. I’m delighted because these colours have been very good to us for a long time.”
Perfect Power gets up late
In one of the most exciting finishes at this week’s royal meeting, the Richard-Fahey trained Perfect Power got up in the dying strides to deny favourite Go Bears Go in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes.
The nature of the finish, which had seen Go Bears Go and Perfect Finish race on opposite sides of the track, meant the result had to go to the judge. Ultimately, Perfect Power had nabbed the race by a head from Go Bears Go with a nose back to Project Dante in third.
Jockey Paul Hanagan was overcome with emotion after the result was confirmed and you could not blame him as he had feared his career might be over following a serious back injury in February 2020.
He said: “I don’t usually get emotional, but I’m probably lucky to be here at all after the accident. It’s an amazing feeling just to even get back here, never mind a winner at Royal Ascot. I am pretty lost for words.
“I actually fractured my back in three places in a fall at Newcastle, and it was just touch and go whether I was going to be back. I owe so much to a lot of people – the Injured Jockeys Fund, Jack Berry House in Malton, my family and friends, and obviously Richard Fahey, who has been amazing, Richard Hale and just everyone at the yard.
“The period after my accident was a very character building few months. The accident was a pretty bad one and I’m lucky to be here at all, let alone riding winners, and I’m so grateful. I just appreciated I had a second chance, and I took it with both hands.
“This is what it’s all about – what the comeback means. This tops the lot. It’s so nice to see the crowd back, and what a buzz that was, when I eventually found out I’d won – the cheer of the crowd was something special.”
Trainer Richard Fahey added: “The Norfolk Stakes has been a bogey race for me. I have been second in it a few times and as they flashed past, I thought we got beat. I’m just glad we got there. I got emotional for a couple of seconds; I’m getting soft in my old age.
“It’s a fantastic result. Me and Paul have been together for such a long time. He left us for around 18 months, but it’s been such a long relationship and it’s great to have another Royal Ascot winner together.
“We were very sweet on Perfect Power. We haven’t had him very long and he missed the kick first time out when third and that probably helped us. He won well at Hamilton, and we were quietly confident coming here.
“We discussed going up to six furlongs but after chatting it through with the team, we came here. He was bought to win a Norfolk and it’s great when a plan comes together.”
The stands’ side rail came out on top again when the Marcus Tregoning-trained Perroto was a ready winner of the mile Britannia Stakes under Oisin Murphy.
It provided Tregoning with a first Royal Ascot winner since 2003 and he said: “This is terrific – it’s lovely to have another Royal Ascot winner. Perotto is a classy horse, and you never know how things are going to work out, but he enjoyed that rattling fast ground.
“He’s not overly big, but he’s got a heart of a lion in him – he’s an amazing horse, one of the most fun horses I have ever trained. He is owned by a lovely syndicate Halcyon Thoroughbreds. They are such enthusiasts and they take the knocks as well as the wins, so they deserve to do well.
“Winning that race at Goodwood he was 4lb out of the handicap, but he’s such a good one and he’s got this magic turn of foot as you saw, and handles the ground better than any other horse.
“He has been a very sound horse. He is by New Bay, and we loved him as a yearling, although we didn’t pay much for him, I think he was under £30,000 or something. He comes from the family of Mohaather, who was a star for me last year, and also Accidental Agent. It is a great result.”
Highfield Princess and Surefire win
Having snuck in at the bottom of the handicap in the Buckingham Palace Stakes, the light weight proved just the trick for the John Quinn-trained Highfield Princess as she scooted away to win the seven-furlong contest under Jason Hart.
Also at Ascot on Thursday, the King George V Handicap went the way of trainer Ralph Beckett and jockey Hector Crouch with Juddmonte homebred Surefire.