royal ascot day 3 highlights by SImon Nott

The opening Group 2 Norfolk Stakes went the way of the bookmakers when 14/1 shot Perfect Power landed the spoils under Paul Hanagan in a competitive heat. Runners in the 5f sprint for two-year-olds were spread across the track, Richard Fahey’s charge came with a late rattle down the stand’s side to win by a head from 6/1 shot Go Bears Go on the far side. The former champion jockey was quite emotional after the race having only recently recovered from a broken back suffered last year. He told reporters ‘They went quite hard and I just had to sit and suffer on him. I’m glad I did, because he didn’t half power home and really ran through the line. I must have passed about 10 jockeys pulling up who thought they had won, and I wasn’t quite sure because it was so far away the other side’.

The Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes saw back favourit-backers get some back when 11/8 market leader Mohaafeth won for William Haggas under Jim Crowley. The punters and connections had to sweat out a Steward’s Enquiry first though. There wasn’t much chance of the placings being reversed though despit the winner having rossed Ryan Moore on 14/1 chance Roman Empire he eventually scored by 1 ¾ lengths. 

While still waiting on the result of the Stewards conflab the winning trainer told ITV Racing ‘I don’t like the stewards’ enquiry. I have been on the wrong end of a few of those in my time and not got the race, so we will see and hope for the best. Mohaafeth definitely crossed the second, but I think he had a bit in hand. I think he won quite nicely’. Jim Crowley added ‘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 on him, and he just sort of lugged into the rail, but he wasn’t doing a stroke in front.

It was a terrible result for bookmakers. The winner had been backed from 7/4 in the SP of 11/8 one off-course firm  reported laying a single bet of £60,000 – £40,000 the winner. 

The Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes was a bounce back for the layers. The Gosden team’s second string of their three runners, Loving Dream winning at 18/1 under Rob Havlin was a surprise to most punters. It’s worth noting that bookies on course were still 25/1 at the off. The soundly beaten into sixth 2/1 favourite Noon Star had been well-backed including a single bet of £25,000 at 9/4 reported on course as well as being the first leg of an £80,000 double off course. The winning jockey said ‘We went quick down the hill and then she quickened from the four to the three-furlong pole. She then just kept finding and finding’ concluding, ‘It was a gutsy performance.’ 

The best was yet to come for the bookmakers, the banker of the day Stradivarius was hammered for the Group 1 Gold Cup off course and on where a bet of £25,000 – £30,000 in cash was noted before being beaten. From a spectator’s point of view, it was a shame that Stradivarius never really got into it. The jolly did find trouble in running and was slightly hampered three out, but the winner Subjectivist duly bolted up returning 13/2. He took the race by the scruff of the neck leading four out and going clear for Mark Johnston under Joe Fanning. 

The winning trainer said ‘We thought in the winter 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 onto 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.’ And so it proved. Joe Fanning’s reaction was ‘It was always the plan that if he wanted to roll on, let him roll on. Five out and before the home bend, I was able to get breathers into him to fill him up, and I thought it would take a very good one to get by him.

There were tremendous scenes as the winning combination came back to the Winner’s Enclosure where weighing room emptied, and his jockey colleagues gave the veteran rider a standing ovation. 

As a footnote,some of the county’s leading bookmakers got together to donate any winnings from the Britannia Handicap to selected charities. The 18/1 winner Perotto trained by Marcus Tregoning and ridden by Oisin Murphy hopefully ensured that a tidy sum was raised. It’s OK, they could all afford their generosity after getting Stradivarius beaten.

Simon Nott

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