Over 293,000 people passed through the gates at Royal Ascot last week to bear witness to five memorable days of horse racing that will live long in the memory. We witnessed history made by two jockeys, performances that took the breath away, thrilling finishes and welcomed a host of foreign raiders to challenge for some of racing’s most glittering prizes. Such an assault on the senses means that deciding on one personal highlight is a process that might take until next year.
Day one is always special as the long anticipation is ended in style with three Group 1 races in one afternoon. The meeting began with a win for France by the versatile and brilliant Solow in the Queen Anne Stakes and just over an hour later Goldream upset the odds and the form book by landing the fast and furious King’s Stand. The performance of the day though undoubtedly came from Gleneagles in the St James’s Palace Stakes as he glided to a facile victory under jockey Ryan Moore to confirm himself the best 3yo miler in Europe. It was the first leg of an opening day treble for the jockey. More – much more – was to come.
Two more winners followed for Moore on day two, including a stunning success on the Irish-owned but American-trained Acapulco in the Queen Mary Stakes as the giant filly blew away her rivals with an awesome display of speed and power. The Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes saw one of the closest finishes of the week, as Free Eagle held off the fast-finishing The Grey Gatsby, but the big story of the day came in the last race. In guiding Osaila to victory in the Sandringham Handicap, Frankie Dettori made history by becoming only the fourth jockey in history to reach 50 Royal Ascot winners.
Fashion and the Gold Cup took centre stage on the third day and trainer Ed Dunlop emulated his father John as Trip To Paris landed the spoils in the showpiece event. It meant an historic double for jockey Graham Lee, as the former National Hunt rider became the first man to win both the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and the Grand National. There was another winner for Dettori in the shape of the hugely impressive Time Test, while Ryan Moore landed another stunning treble to take his overall tally to eight – equalling the post-war record for Royal Ascot winners in a year held by Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery.
On day four Moore rode another winner, his ninth of the meeting, to set a new post-war record as he teamed up with Aloft to land the Queen’s Vase after racegoers had been treated to a pair of Group 1 contests earlier in the afternoon. Ervedya added the Coronation Stakes to her win earlier in the season in the French 1000 Guineas, while the long-awaited first running of the Commonwealth Cup over six furlongs saw Muhaarar give trainer Charlie Hills his second winner of the week.
A magnificent week came to a close on Saturday and provided poignancy through Undrafted’s win in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. The horse’s American trainer, Wesley Ward, had spent the previous night in hospital after his daughter fell ill. Undrafted’s win under Dettori provided much comfort to Ward and his family, with the trainer describing it as the biggest win of his career. The day’s other feature race, the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, provided Sir Michael Stoute with his first winner of the meeting as Snow Sky led from start to finish to upset the more fancied Telescope and Eagle Top.
“Royal Ascot has given us a week of tremendous racing,” reflected Ascot’s Chief Executive, Guy Henderson.
“We have seen some terrific equine and human performances and milestones. There were a record number of overseas' successes this weeks - 13 as against a previous best of 11 in 2012 - emphasising the appeal of Royal Ascot to those from far and wide and our TV pictures went around the world to nearly 150 countries.”