Right royal result for Best
Queen and commoner have plenty to celebrate on the sport's most glittering stage
Celebration, on one of the sport's great podiums, manifests itself with varying degrees of exuberance. After winning yesterday's opening Chesham Stakes with Free Agent, the Queen's reaction was a simple, satisfied: "I've done it." After notching his fifth victory of the week with Macarthur in the Hardwicke Stakes, Aidan O'Brien could muse with equal satisfaction that he had done it again. And as Kingsgate Native took the week's sprinting crown in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, John Best was forthright in his delight: "I've fucking done it again!"
And for all its riches and extravagance, this meeting is nothing if not egalitarian. Leaving aside the Royal winner for the moment, consider the difference between O'Brien and Best. The Irishman has charge of more than 200 horses, the pick of a conveyor belt of the finest European and North American bloodlines, at Ballydoyle in Co Tipperary. Best trains 50 at Hucking in Kent, hardly a thoroughbred hotbed. But they share ambition and an innate feeling for the animals under their care that together equal success. Kingsgate Native, at 33-1, was Best's second of the week, after 100-1 shot Flashmans Papers in the Windsor Castle Stakes, an extraordinary feat with his ammunition.
"Results like this, on this stage, are mega for us," said Best. "We're a small yard, out on our own, doing our own thing. We need days like this to put us on the scene, to give us that vital step up. We've got 50 horses now but I'd like 150. You need numbers to properly take on the big boys."
Best, though, is not doing too badly, thanks to the flagship horse whose talents he has carefully husbanded. Last season Kingsgate Native, a bull of a colt, announced his arrival in the elite sprinting ranks by becoming a rare two-year-old winner of the all-aged Nunthorpe Stakes, breaking his maiden in a Group One contest in the process. Whether or not that precocious brilliance could be transferred to a second season was first tested with a close 10th place in the King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday, and confirmed yesterday.
Kingsgate Native, racing for only the sixth time, found himself in a fight as he, runner-up War Artist and Sir Gerry drew clear, but it was one he won, in the end, decisively.
"He was very professional," said rider Seb Sanders. "He carried me through the race and picked up as soon as I asked. A furlong and a half out I thought I'd win easily, but those other two horses are battle hardened, and I had to ask a few more questions. But he went at them like a proper tough horse and once he got his head in front there was going to be only one result. He'll have learned from it too; there are still a few rough edges to knock off. Make no mistake, this is one very good sprinter."
After Tuesday's defeat, the view was that there was nothing to lose by returning Kingsgate Native to the fray. The colt carries the colours of former bookmaker John Mayne, who raced him last year, but is now controlled by Cheveley Park Stud, who have acquired him to stand alongside his sire Pivotal next year. It was the decision of the new owners to replace regular jockey Jimmy Quinn with their own man Sanders.
"He's hardly had a saddle on since Tuesday," said Best. "He's been turned out in the paddock, relaxing and thinking about life, and just had a gentle canter yesterday. We turn all our colts out whenever we can; they're used to it, it's no big deal for them and it keeps them level in the head and happy in their will to do their job. And that is what makes the difference between a good horse and a very good horse like this one. Their brains and their heart."
Kingsgate Native was the first of the week's seven top-level winners to be trained in Britain. Four of the other six – Haradasun, Henrythenavigator, Duke Of Marmalade and magnificent Yeats – emerged from Ballydoyle and were joined yesterday by Macarthur and Honolulu.
Their victories tied up the meetings titles for trainer O'Brien, who netted more than £750,000 in prizemoney, and jockey Johnny Murtagh, another to spotlight the attitude of his mount after Macarthur dug deep to catch Multidimensional, ridden by Ted Durcan, close home. "Ted caught me a bit flat-footed when he quickened in front," said Murtagh, "and mine had to really work a bit to help me, but in the last 100 yards he kicked into another gear."
For all her wealth, the Queen is, in bloodstock terms, a bit player, with just 15 foals a year at her Norfolk breeding headquarters, but there are signs of a revival in Her Majesty's fortunes. Free Agent, trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by Richard Hughes, was her 20th winner at "her" meeting, her first for nine years, and her first juvenile success here since Pall Mall won the New Stakes in 1957. Pall Mall went on to take the 2,000 Guineas the following year; Free Agent is now among the early favourites for next year's Derby.
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