royal ascot day 4 highlights and overview

There was a point in the morning when it looked like we’d all have the afternoon off with racing in doubt. Luckily after a lengthy inspection, the meeting went ahead.

The Group Three Albany Stakes went to 16/1 winner Sandrine for Andrew Balding under David Probert on going described as heavy. The winner was going easily when she challenged over a furlong out and went on to win by a length and a half from 5/1 chance Hello You. The 9/2 favourite finished 13th and was eased when beaten. 

The winning trainer told reporters. ‘Sandrine was impressive when winning on debut. It was a low-class race at Kempton, but the form worked out well and she worked nicely last week. We felt we were entitled to run. We were slightly worried about the ground as there were mixed messages on the pedigree’, he concluded with praise for the winning jockey saying, ‘I am pleased for David Probert, who just gave her the most beautiful ride and really deserves it’.

David Probert said of his win, ‘She won so well on her first time out around Kempton, and we knew she was pretty special, but she has done so well to brave it through this ground.’

The bookmakers may have got a few quid in front on the first, but they took a clobbering in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes. Alenquer was backed from 9/4 into 13/8 before justifying the support for William Haggas under Tom Marquand. The winner was confidently ridden given the testing conditions. He was held up in the rear before being sent to the front around the furlong pole and staying on to win nicely. 

After the colt’s victory Maureen Haggas, wife and assistant to William Haggas, said ‘I think he was a bit fresh though, a little bit keen the first furlong, but once Tom had him in behind and settled, he was great. He could easily be a St Leger horse, but it is hard to know really. He wasn’t stopping here, so I think we will just see how it goes’.

There was drama after the Group One Commonwealth Cup after 4/1 chance Dragon Symbol won the race by a head under Oisin Murphy for Archie Watson. The trouble was, in doing so the combination was deemed to have interfered with the runner up, American raider 5/1 chance Campanelle for Wesley Ward under Frankie Dettori. After a lengthy enquiry, the placings were reversed. 

Talking after the result of the enquiry was known Wesley Ward said, ‘We are elated. Both horses ran fantastic, they dug down deep and there were only inches apart. I think it was a validated result, in the United States terms. He has taken her across the track. Archie Watson shook my hand after the enquiry, a true gentleman.’ 

On the objection Frankie Dettori said ‘It is never nice winning a race in the stewards’ room. I feel sorry for Dragon Symbol’s connections that I took it off them. But in these conditions, when you are taken across about eight lanes, I got nudged three times, lost my momentum, and got beaten a head, so the stewards felt they gave me the benefit of the doubt.

Oisin Murphy reflected, ‘I am disappointed for the connections of Dragon Symbol. There was a massive Japanese interest, he finished the race in front, but it was not meant to be. I didn’t give it much thought, I went in the stewards’ room, I told them I was on the best horse, Frankie said I was on the best horse, but it didn’t go my way’ He added, ‘Sorry to the Japanese fans and to Archie Watson’s team, and well done to Wesley Ward’.

There was some conjecture among some observers that the decision made by the stewards may have been swayed as the rules in America and the Far East where racing was being televised and bet on are stricter than ours. If the connections of the first past the post do appeal it will be interesting to see how the race is interpreted, then. 

Jockey Oisin Murphy dealt with the disappointment of his demotion in the beat possible way. That is winning the Group One Coronation Stakes on Andrew Balding’s 11/2 chance Alcohol Free. That victory completed a double on the day for winning trainer. Joseph O’Brien’s Pretty Gorgeous under Frankie Dettori was sent off the 4/1 favourite but had to settle for fifth. 

Andrew Balding was delighted with the result telling reporters ‘We were a bit concerned when all the rain came, because her stamina wasn’t guaranteed, but full credit to Oisin, it’s the measure of the man to have the disappointment he had five minutes before they go in the stalls, and to give her such a good ride takes some doing.

Oisin Murphy concluded ‘Alcohol Free relaxed, I stayed on the bit for as long as I could and given her pedigree, she was always going to handle the ground.’

Oisin Murphy ended up having a cracking day riding a double, adding to his win on Alcohol Free with a victory on Quickthorn in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes.

Simon Nott

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