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Landmark week at Royal Ascot with eight Irish-trained winners

Joseph O’Brien’s first time to win there as a trainer was massive.

Joseph O’Brien was back in the winner’s enclosure as a trainer.
Joseph O’Brien was back in the winner’s enclosure as a trainer.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THERE WERE LANDMARK wins last week at Royal Ascot, eight Irish-trained winners, an 80th Royal Ascot win for Aidan O’Brien, a 70th for Ryan Moore, and firsts for riders Shane Foley and Shane Crosse and for trainer Joseph O’Brien.

Joseph O’Brien had been there many times as a rider. He had come back into the winner’s enclosure at Royal Ascot on the back of his horse, back through the tunnel flanked by applause, hat-tip and dismount. Even so, his first as a trainer was massive.

It was in 2012 that Joseph O’Brien rode So You Think to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, drove him out to come over two lengths clear of the Queen’s horse Carlton House in what proved to be the High Chaparral horse’s final race. Ten years later and he’s there again with State Of Rest. Same race, same place, but different horse and different as a trainer. All you can do is watch from the stands, powerless to influence the outcome now, trust that the work is done, a manager in the dugout.

The trainer walked the course with his rider Shane Crosse the day before. Before Wednesday, the rider was a Royal Ascot maiden. Indeed, he had only ridden at the track twice before, and he had never ridden over the round course. As they walked the 10-furlong course together, the trainer shared his experience of the track with his rider, the subtleties of the contours, where you need to press on and where you can ease off and where you need to kick. Together they concocted a plan, and Shane Crosse was all class, carried out that plan to the letter as he drove State Of Rest to victory.

Some 24 hours later, there was another maiden Royal Ascot victory for another Shane as Magical Lagoon landed the Ribblesdale Stakes.

Shane Foley missed out in 2020 as Covid restrictions meant that he couldn’t travel, and it was Frankie Dettori who rode Alpine Star to victory in the Coronation Stakes. Foley said before the 2022 Royal Ascot jamboree got under way that he thought that Magical Lagoon was his best chance of the week and, second on Cadillac in the Wolferton Stakes on Tuesday, he duly delivered on Jessica Harrington’s filly.

It didn’t look likely when the favourite Sea Silk Road moved up on the outside on the run to the furlong marker, and probably went a head or a neck up. But her challenger moved to her left deep inside the final furlong as Magical Lagoon remained straight and true, as her stamina kicked in inside the final 150 yards and she powered to a half-length victory.

Jessica Harrington’s filly had never been beyond 10 furlongs in her life before, but she saw out that distance well when she was beaten a short head by Concert Hall in the Salsabil Stakes at Navan in April, in a race that is working out ridiculously well. Also, a daughter of Galileo and a half-sister to King George winner Novellist, it was always likely that she would improve for stepping up in trip. Next up is reportedly the Irish Oaks, and she should be a big player in that.

Five of the other six Irish-trained winners were Aidan O’Brien’s, which took the perennial champion trainer’s Royal Ascot tally to 81, just one short of Sir Michael Stoute’s record of 82. His five winners – one more than Charlie Appleby – saw Aidan O’Brien awarded the Leading Trainer title at Royal Ascot for the 11th time, 21 years after his first title.

Little Big Bear was tenacious in landing the Windsor Castle Stakes on Tuesday, and Meditate was impressive in landing the Albany Stakes, retaining her unbeaten record. Changingoftheguard had to dig deep to repel the last lunge of Grand Alliance in the King Edward VII Stakes, and Ryan Moore was brilliant on Broome in the Hardwicke Stakes, dictating a strong pace that suited his horse and that would lay bare all the potential weaknesses in his rivals.

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Moore was great too on Kyprios in the Gold Cup, and the Galileo colt put up a career-best performance. A lot of the attention was re-directed to the Dettori travails on Stradivarius in the immediate aftermath, as a result of which the performance that the winner put up may have gone a little under-appreciated.

Ryan Moore had his horse in the ideal position from early, up on the outside, just one off the rail for most of the way, with options. He was wider than ideal as they raced to the home turn, but that was out of necessity as the field bunched before the dash.

Also, Kyprios was headed by Mojo Star on the run to the furlong marker. The Moyglare Stud’s colt had never been beyond a mile and six furlongs in his life. A full-brother to Search For A Song, who excels over the Irish St Leger trip, his stamina for two and a half miles was not assured, but he dug deeply, got back up on the far side of Mojo Star as they raced inside the final 200 yards, and forged on to win by a half a length, thereby providing Aidan O’Brien with a record eighth Gold Cup.

And speaking of digging deeply, Stratum landed the finale, the Queen Alexandra Stakes, the longest race, staying on strongly for William Buick to get home by a length from Reshoun and land his second renewal of the race in as many years. It was a fourth Queen Alexandra for Willie Mullins, to go with his four Ascot Stakes victories and take his Royal Ascot tally to eight. That’s just 80 shy of his Cheltenham Festival tally.

About the author:

Donn McClean

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