Racing: Royal Ascot: Cash courts danger in his Palace coup: Anxiety for the rider of yesterday's big winner as a post-race inquiry brings back memories of an infamous disqualification

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The Independent Online
FOR TWENTY minutes here yesterday Cash Asmussen, the American jockey, was revisiting desperate times.

Five years ago, Asmussen was the victim of an appalling adjudication at this meeting when Royal Gait was disqualified from the Gold Cup. A miscarriage of justice which made the horse 'The Ascot One'.

As soon as the jockey pierced the line on Kingmambo in the St James's Palace Stakes yesterday came the two words which flooded his mind with deja vu. Stewards' inquiry.

The examination into the Group One race was provoked by Kingmambo's awkward passage in the closing stages. His innocence appeared obvious, but, as the stewards' meeting dragged on, Francois Boutin, the colt's trainer, became more agitated and Asmussen grew more fearful.

'I could have had a bet about him keeping the race,' the rider said. 'But I would have bet on Royal Gait.'

Britain, however, was spared another accusation of jingosim, when Asmussen's words were enough to placate the bench. 'I had it all worked out, what I was going to say, before we went in,' he said. 'But at one stage I thought we were going to have to win the race all over again.'

That this was not going to be a simple parade for horse and jockey was apparent as soon as the stalls opened. French challengers are done no favours in Britain, particularly those that start at 2-5.

The four-strong field split immediately after the start with Pat Eddery and Willie Carson darting to the far rail to confuse Asmussen. At the entrance to the straight, horses converged as Kingmambo was presented with a wall of flesh. 'When you have got three horses on top of you you are going to get into trouble and we certainly had plenty of company,' Asmussen said. 'Instead of having one jockey on top of him he had four.'

Asmussen, however, had an overpowering factor in his favour. His horse was the best. 'I was concerned but I didn't panic because I was the only one who wasn't off the bridle,' he said. 'I bought a bit of time and made my move when I could see Pat didn't have any juice left.

'Once I got out I took a deep breath and let him loose. He didn't get motoring until it was time to pull up.' By that time, Kingmambo had continued the sweet run of Boutin and his owner, Stavros Niarchos. Both are sick men, but both have enjoyed healthy moments in the top races this season.

Kingmambo will now be prepared for the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, where he will attempt to dim the reputation of Zafonic, who missed yesterday's race as the ground was thought too soft for him.

Zafonic's owner, Khalid Abdullah, did not go home without a bauble though, as Placerville proved a second consecutive Prince of Wales's Stakes winner for Henry Cecil.

An hour later Peter Chapple- Hyam's Stonehatch became the first Royal Ascot winner for 21 years to emerge from Robert Sangster's magnificent Manton complex when he won the Coventry Stakes. The white- socked, chestnut colt reminded strongly of Sangster's 1977 Derby winner The Minstrel, but bookmakers are increasingly dubious that he will duplicate a Classic win and pushed him out to 25-1 for the 1994 2,000 Guineas.

Alflora again provided Clive Brittain with the meeting's first winner (Sikeston did the same two years ago) and again made Sheikh Mohammed rue the failure to sign Michael Kinane as his stable jockey. The Arab owner had four runners in the Queen Anne Stakes, but the best of them, Inner City, had to give second best to Alflora and Kinane, who observed his pre-race briefing to the letter.

'The only instruction I gave him was to let the horse gallop on and save a bit,' Brittain said. 'The bit he saved was the bit he won by.'

Alflora ran in last year's Derby, and the first colt to emerge from this year's Blue Riband, fourth-placed Cairo Prince, posed a question mark over the merit of the Classic when he dribbled home behind Beneficial in the King Edward VII Stakes.

Cairo Prince may have let down the Epsom form, but this was a day when far greater embarrassment was saved. This time, at least, the Ascot stewards did not let down British racing.

(Photograph omitted)