Whether or not Ascot officially refers to the Thursday of the Royal meeting as Ladies’ Day is irrelevant as this time around it was females both equine and human who made the headlines.
The most thrilling result of Royal Ascot 2013 was achieved in the Gold Cup, when Her Majesty The Queen’s Estimate, the sole filly of the 14-strong field, battled her way home under Ryan Moore to add the country’s most prestigious staying prize to last year’s Queen’s Vase success.
The roars from the crowd were amplified further when footage of the Queen, clearly delighted and celebrating her memorable victory alongside her Racing Manager John Warren, were broadcast to the crowd via the big screens around the racecourse.
“This rates as highly as anything, and I know the pleasure it will have given the Queen because she has such a love for her breeding programme, and that’s why it will have been a bigger thrill to win with a filly, rather than a colt,” said Estimate’s trainer Sir Michael Stoute.
While the daughter of Monsun will certainly join the broodmare band at the Royal Studs, she is not a product of Sandringham as she was a gift to the Queen from her fellow owner/breeder the Aga Khan. As the fourth offspring of the Darshaan mare Ebaziya to win at Group 1 level, Estimate was a very generous present indeed.
Stoute added, “Things have gone very smoothly – as a trainer you walk the box when horses have had a setback and get behind schedule, and there are doubts about whether they can run. Trip wise their had to be doubts, but the distaff side of her pedigree screams extreme stamina.”
Those reserves of stamina were most obvious in Estimate’s half-brother, Enzeli (by Kahyasi), who won the Gold Cup in 1999 for his owner/breeder, while another half-sibling Ebadiyla (Sadler’s Wells) won the Irish Oaks followed by the Prix Royal Oak over a mile and seven furlongs. The quartet of top-flight winners in Estimate’s immediate family is completed by the more precocious Edabiya (Rainbow Quest), winner of the Moyglare Stud Stakes in 1998.
Stoute could hardly have summed up the importance of the Queen’s involvement with horseracing any better when he concluded, “This win is very high on my list, because it’s been done for a lady who, never mind being The Queen, loves racing, is a great supporter of racing and is so good for British racing.”
Britain lost one of its best-loved figures of the turf just over a week ago with the death of Sir Henry Cecil. If Tuesday’s solemn moment of silence for the master trainer wasn’t emotional enough for his many fans, Thursday’s triumph by Riposte in the Ribblesdale Stakes, a race Cecil won five times, brought a fresh wave of tears. This time, however, they were largely tears of joy for the most fitting of victories. Not only does Riposte run in the colours of Cecil’s most loyal patron, Prince Khalid Abdullah, but she is a three-parts sister to Kind, the dam of the team’s most famous representative, Frankel.
Lady Cecil instantly dedicated her first Royal Ascot victory as trainer to “Henry, the prince and all the staff at Warren Place”, before adding that keeping herself busy in maintaining that Newmarket’s most famous yard continued in the manner set down by her late husband for decades was what helped to stop her from “falling to bits”.
Lady Cecil added, “My head is in a complete spin. Henry had been planning for Royal Ascot, with some plans from last year and definitely from the spring. We are just carrying on what he wanted.
“We have focused on this week. It is the most important week of the whole year for any training establishment – we haven’t got to the end of the week yet. That reception that Riposte got was for him.”
Riposte, who was ridden by Tom Queally, was not the only Juddmonte colour-bearer in the winner’s enclosure on Thursday as Remote, another Dansili three-year-old but this time out of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Zenda, was victorious in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes with a display which signaled that further steps up the ladder in Group company will be very much on the cards for the John Gosden-trained colt.
The champion trainer added his own reflections on his late colleague, saying: “Henry was a great friend who I spent time with on the Heath every morning, so I miss him terribly.”
He added, “We had a great Royal meeting last year, but this is our first winner this time. We’ve been hitting goal posts and cross bars this time. But to have a lovely winner like this is wonderful.”
Celebrating her first success at Royal Ascot was trainer Joanna Morgan, who in her riding days became not only the first female jockey to ride at the meeting but also the first to ride in a Classic in the British Isles. She sent out 20/1 shot Roca Tumu to land a memorable win in the Britannia Stakes after the syndicate which owns the three-year-old colt had turned down a lucrative offer for him from Hong Kong.
Welsh-born Morgan, who trains in Ireland and made Royal Ascot history when partnering Gallowshill Boy in the Queen’s Vase of 1978, said, “It is a dream to win here – it’s what you work every day for. My first runner here as a trainer came third in the Queen’s Vase about 25 years ago. I have had several runners since but not got any closer until today.”
Roca Tumu’s win was also a first victory at the Royal meeting for his young jockey Billy Lee.