LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – Jim Crowley stole the show on the first day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday, riding three winners including a sparkling victory on Battaash in the Group One King’s Stand Stakes.
Battaash’s win brought the 34-year-old the most joy and a sense of relief too as the duo put behind them two previous runners-up spots in the race with a dominant performance.
Crowley’s other wins came with Motakhayyel in the Buckingham Palace Handicap — one of the races added to this year’s meeting — and Nazeef in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.
Nazeef was winner number 51 at the historic meeting for trainer John Gosden — whose 50th had come earlier with Frankie Dettori’s only win of the day on Frankly Darling in the Ribblesdale Stakes.
Sadly, for both Crowley and Gosden, their feats took place before only a smattering of people as spectators, including even owners, are not permitted to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting’s patron and most famous attendee Queen Elizabeth II watched on television from nearby Windsor Castle.
She had, though, written the foreword to the race card and the UK national anthem was sung remotely by Laura Wright and the Royal Holloway Choir.
Crowley still enjoyed the moment of glory with Battaash, whose trainer Charlie Hills also saddled the runner-up Equilateral.
“It was redemption for Battaash today. He had a bit of unfinished business and he got it done,” said Crowley.
“I would say he’s number one in my career. He has so much natural talent.”
NICE BOTTLE OF RED
Ryan Moore came out on top in the first Group One of the day, the Queen Anne Stakes, prevailing with favourite Circus Maximus after a terrific duel with Dettori on Terebellum.
It was Moore’s 59th success at the meeting and trainer Aidan O’Brien’s 71st, while Circus Maximus added this prize to his St James’s Palace Stakes victory last year.
His victory enriched one punter who put on £100,000 ($126,000) each-way at 4/1.
“We’re very happy. We are racing. Obviously it is not the same and detracts from the moment but that is the world we are living in,” said Moore.
O’Brien had remained back in Ireland — he would have to self-isolate on his return home — and said he was enjoying watching the spectacle from afar.
“It’s very exciting,” said O’Brien.
“Ascot is usually a very busy week for us, so it’s brilliant today to see all the preliminaries and everything.”
Dettori rebounded immediately by landing his 68th victory at the meeting — his first coming 30 years ago — with Frankly Darling.
Bookies shortened her to 4/1 for the Oaks on July 4.
Dettori was excited enough to cup his ears and perform one of his trademark flying dismounts, even though he had said that it would be anti-climactic behind closed doors.
“The first race was very strange,” said Dettori after presenting Gosden with a saddle-cloth with 50 marked on it.
“I love this place when it has a roar but I am warmed up now with the first big win, why not celebrate!.”
There was a David and Goliath story in the Derby trial the King Edward VII Stakes.
Pyledriver — who could not find a buyer at 10,000 Guineas when he was put up for sale as a yearling in 2017 — won as O’Brien’s favourite Mogul looked nothing like a horse that cost 3.4 million guineas, finishing fourth.
It was very much a family affair with jockey Martin Dwyer — who first won the King Edward VII 17 years ago — the son-in-law of trainer William Muir.
“I was out of my big chair, jumping up and down. I am rather hoarse,” said owner Guy Leach, watching from his home in Cardiff.
“I have a very nice bottle of red going but it will be a very quiet evening.
“I will sit with a glass and watch it over and over again.”