That Ryan Moore would hold the modern-day record of Royal Ascot winners in a week was a statistic waiting to happen once the jockey most rate as the best in the business drew level on eight with Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery after day three. He duly eased ahead when Aloft made it nine in Friday’s finale, the Queen’s Vase.
But it was one of the sport’s more curious facts that Christophe Soumillon, the winner of a whole host of top-class races around the world, including six Group Ones in England, had never tasted success at Royal Ascot before Friday.
And even more remarkable after the twice French champion jockey delivered an expertly timed run aboard Ervedya in the Coronation Stakes to deny Moore on the favourite Found.
Soumillon reckons he has had about two dozen rides at the royal meeting and actually did win the Queen Anne Stakes on Valixir when it was run at York in 2005, but this was a victory a long time coming and made all the sweeter by the manner of its execution.
Found looked by far the likeliest winner once Moore pressed the button, but Soumillon was biding his time on the French 1,000 Guineas winner and pounced as late as he dared to win by a neck.
“Ervedya has a lot of speed, but she has just one run which lasts for a furlong, so I had to time it just right,” he said. “I could see Found going well, but I was scared of hitting the front too soon.”
Jean-Claude Rouget, the filly’s trainer, also celebrating his first Royal Ascot victory, claimed he was not the least bit concerned. “The pace was correct, she has a good turn of foot and she came through at a good moment,” Rouget said.
Later, Moore reacted typically to his astonishing achievement, swatting away congratulations with: “I’ve just been lucky, riding the best horses.” But he rides the best horses for the same reason as Lewis Hamilton drives the fastest cars.
Limato, Tiggy Wiggy, Hootenanny and Anthem Alexander had all been touted as potential champion sprinters going into the inaugural Commonwealth Cup, but all were put firmly in their place by Muhaarar, who instead emerged as the three-year-old most likely to challenge the older generation for top honours in the second half of the season.
Muhaarar, although the winner of the Gimcrack Stakes at York last year and the Greenham at Newbury this spring, had slipped slightly under the radar after finishing down the field in the French 2,000 Guineas when he pulled far too hard for his own good.
But back down to six furlongs he showed himself to be a sprinter of the highest calibre as he swept clear inside the last quarter mile to beat Limato by almost four lengths – in terms of a sprint, run on fast ground, a positive rout.
“Rarely does a race work out so easily, especially here,” said jockey Dane O’Neill, enjoying his biggest success, while the winning trainer, Charlie Hills, added: “This looked a proper race – any one of 10 could have won – but he did it in such great style and he’s still improving. He has the world at his feet.”
The real test will come when he takes on his elders, but he gave everyone the impression that he will be well up to the challenge, including the bookmakers, who promoted him to favourite for Newmarket’s July Cup.
It all got a bit emotional after Illuminate won the Albany Stakes and not because the filly won with such aplomb that she is now a genuinely exciting prospect for next May’s 1,000 Guineas.
“That’s generous,” said her trainer, Richard Hannon, when hearing a 16-1 quote for the Classic.
But this is the last Royal Ascot where Hannon teams up with Richard Hughes, who retires at the end of the season, and when the trainer was reminded of this, he quickly lost it, choking on his words and quite unable to complete his post-race television interviews.
“We’ve had some great times together. Hughesie is going to leave a very big hole in the operation,” Hannon managed before making his excuses and leaving.
Hughes, slight favourite over Ryan Moore to sign off with a fourth successive seasonal jockeys’ title, was thrilled to get on this year’s scoresheet at the royal meeting at last and the fact that the win was for his brother-in-law Hannon greatly added to the moments.Reuse content