There’s no doubt that the Thursday of this year’s Royal Ascot – Gold Cup Day, Ladies’ Day, call it what you will – was one of the finest and most emotional days of racing ever staged. The Royal Ascot faithful would have settled for either a winner for the Queen or a winner for Lady Cecil and the Warren Place team but to have been granted both within three-quarters of an hour was almost too much to absorb.
After weeks of miserable headlines involving drug cheats and race-fixing, finally we had something truly to savour and celebrate. The BBC programme on the Queen and her passion for horses aired just before the Derby gave superb primetime coverage of the grassroots of the sport – the breeding industry. Intimate footage of the monarch at the Royal Studs with her foals, yearlings and broodmares, not to mention the odd retired racehorse or two, such as former Chesham Stakes hero Free Agent, was brought full circle a few weeks later by events at Ascot racecourse. There, on racing’s biggest and most spectacular stage, the years of planning matings, cultivating bloodlines and nurturing young stock came to fruition, not just for the Queen but for any breeder lucky enough to be represented by a runner at the meeting.
Of course in Estimate, the Queen was benefiting from a generous gift from her fellow owner/breeder the Aga Khan, whose own colours were borne to victory in Group 1 contests by Estimate’s half-siblings Enzeli (a fellow Ascot Gold Cup winner), Ebadiyla and Edabiya. Despite missing out on a further top-flight win for his own operation, an owner as sporting as the Aga Khan will surely have taken pleasure in having played an important part in such an historic occasion. And as history relates, plenty of major bloodstock empires have been enhanced by the swapping of bloodlines among friends and rivals of the turf down the years.
It was truly a day for owner/breeders. While Sir Henry Cecil has trained for so many over the years, the legacy of Frankel has ensured that when one thinks of Cecil, the green, pink and white silks of Prince Khalid Abdullah instantly spring to mind. In the longed-for posthumous victory at the meeting so beloved of Cecil, those famous colours once again played their part, with Frankel’s close relative Riposte, a three-parts-sister to his dam Kind, delivering a turbo-charged finish to the Ribblesdale to give Lady Cecil her first Royal Ascot victory.
Of course that wasn’t the only Group-race success of the day for the Juddmonte team. The John Gosden-trained Remote, also a three-year-old by Dansili, looked another exciting prospect when winning the Tercentenary Stakes. Just as Cecil had trained Riposte’s dam, the Lancashire Oaks winner Rainbow Lake, Gosden had also honed Remote’s dam Zenda for glory in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. For an outfit with the longevity of Juddmonte, the nurturing of these families doesn’t end when the yearlings leave the farms, and it is to be hoped that the gradual dispersal of such wonderful lines will stand emerging owner/breeders in good stead for generations to come.
From small acorns
Of course, operations on this scale have a wealth of talent on which to draw and it is, therefore, even more special for breeders with just a handful of mares to enjoy success in such an arena. Congratulations must go again to Brian and Jane Hammond of Ashley House Stud for their second consecutive Royal Ascot winner Elidor, whose victory in the King George V Stakes followed last year’s Windsor Castle Stakes win of Hototo. Elidor is a Cape Cross half-brother to the 2011 Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach and the Hammonds, who sold their dam Honorine in foal to New Approach to Qatar Bloodstock, have retained her Authorized two-year-old, who has been named Honor Bound and is in training with Ralph Beckett.
It will no doubt have come as a blow to breeders Bob McCreery, David Ludlow and Simon Tindall to have learned that Ronaldsay’s unraced two-year-old by Dubawi, who was the second-top price at last year’s DBS Premier Yearling Sale and is now named Orkney Island, is one of those currently sidelined for having tested positive for the anabolic steroid ethylestranol at Godolphin’s Moulton Paddocks. Better news was to come, however, with Gale Force Ten’s victory in the Jersey Stakes. The Oasis Dream colt was Ronaldsay’s first foal and had topped the previous year’s sale at DBS when selling to Coolmore for £280,000.
John Deer’s homebred Al Kazeem made himself one of the most desirable stallion prospects currently in training with victory in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes giving him his fourth successive Group win, while the progressive Hillstar, winner of the King Edward VII Stakes for Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and Southcourt Stud, will be another colt worthy of consideration by the stallion masters if he continues on his upwardly mobile trajectory.