If the giant Union flags draped upon the back of the grandstand had initially seemed fairly gratuitous – not to mention the many smaller ones suspended across its internal galleries, like laundry drying over a Neapolitan slum – they had become a downright embarrassment by the time the big race was run here. The Irish, having plundered four out of six on the opening day, had already won the first two races and were now looking forward to Camelot, last year's Derby winner, exporting the Prince of Wales's Stakes as well. This might be a quintessentially English occasion, but it can seldom have tested quite so rigorously the notion that stoicism remains any kind of national trait.
It was a crisis that called hoarsely for some dauntless new hero – which is exactly what it produced. Like a young lieutenant coolly grabbing the riddled standard from older hands, James Doyle raised the siege with a dramatic lunge on Al Kazeem. It was his first Royal Ascot success. Barely an hour later, he had completed an 891.5-1 treble. "It's magical," he said. "It leaves you speechless in some ways, but this is what it is all about – all those mornings, all the evening meetings, all the hard work you put in. It does pay."
If this was a spectacular personal breakthrough, then those who saluted the young chevalier with a specifically patriotic fervour will identify Al Kazeem very much as a champion made in Britain. For not only was he ridden by a native of Cambridge; he was also bred here by his owner, John Deer; and his journey had been plotted, back in the general's tent on the Wiltshire Downs, by that most measured and cerebral of strategists, Roger Charlton.
Doyle, now 25, once reached such an impasse that he registered for a plumbers' course. And Charlton, of course, famously worked as a stockbroker before saddling the 1990 Derby winner in his first season after succeeding Jeremy Tree as trainer at Beckhampton. But Al Kazeem also consummates long, patient toil in the case of Deer, one of few British breeders to set a persevering furrow across a landscape dominated by the superpowers of global bloodstock. Now, together, they have come up with a horse eligible for the Arc itself.
Al Kazeem had beaten Camelot in his own backyard last month, in a four-runner race at the Curragh, but the market anticipated a different outcome in this crucible. While Camelot again travelled well, his response to pressure did little to stifle fears that he may have become disenchanted, and The Fugue ultimately swept past him for third. Both, however, were by now peripheral to the gripping duel set up by a ride of terrific enterprise from Paul Hanagan on Mukhadram.
For a moment, deep in the straight, it seemed as though Hanagan had gone beyond recall. But Doyle kept his cool, and Al Kazeem ran down the leader with an inexorable surge that augurs well for his return to a mile and a half, getting up by a neck with the pair clear.
Charlton commended both jockey and owner for their different brands of forbearance. "I thought for an awful minute we weren't going to get there, but James seemed quite confident," he said. "For a young guy who hasn't ridden that many good horses, we have asked him big questions – and he has delivered. And his owner, he was offered lots of money for this horse, so I'm lucky to have him, really. The name of the game is patience. Sir Henry Cecil said it's [about] patience, patience and more patience. You need the owners to do that. But we always thought we had a really good horse, so it was worth waiting for."
Doyle followed up on Belgian Bill in the big handicap, the Royal Hunt Cup, vindicating trainer George Baker's move to Manton with a first Royal Ascot winner; and then added the Queen Mary Stakes on Rizeena, in contrast a 17th success at this meeting for his evergreen trainer. Even at the age of 78, the advent of this filly has suddenly made it premature to perceive an end to the career of Clive Brittain in its lengthening shadows – never mind a sunset over the homeland evoked by his surname.Reuse content