Ryan Moore was riding winners for fun again, while Frankie Dettori kick-started his second Royal Ascot half-century, but it was one of the less sung members of the weighing room, Graham Lee, who stole the big show, the Gold Cup, aboard a horse who until recently was not even considered good enough to take part.
Trip To Paris, the Chester Cup winner, outstayed the three Irish raiders, Kingfisher, Forgotten Rules and Simenon, to justify the bold decision of his owners, La Grange Partnership, which includes his trainer Ed Dunlop, to supplement him last weekend; the winning purse was more than six times the £35,000 fee.
Andrew White, one of the partners, revealed: “This race featured in a half-hearted discussion over lunch at Chester, but even until last Friday we didn’t know for sure what we were going to do.”
For Dunlop, this was a career highlight; he remembers, as a small child, the Gold Cup living on the dining room table after his father, John, won the 1974 renewal with Ragstone.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said, and the dream goes on because the owners of Trip To Paris are now looking forward to a trip to Australia in November for the Melbourne Cup, a race the stable stalwart Red Cadeaux has finished runner-up in three times in the past four years.
Lee, who won the 2004 Grand National on Amberleigh House for Ginger McCain, switched his attention to the Flat three years ago at an age, 36, when many riders might be contemplating retirement and has enjoyed a wonderful second career, with 433 winners already, capped by this initial triumph at the Royal meeting, also his first Group One.
The Yorkshire-based rider fended off the inevitable question – “How does this feel compared to winning the Grand National?” – with a dead bat. “That’s an awful question to ask,” he said. “Let’s just say that this is a great day at the office. The second I got legged up on him in the parade ring I knew he was going to run well. He was relaxed all the time, conserving energy. Happy days.”
Kingfisher might have beaten Trip To Paris with a clear run in the last quarter mile, while trainer Dermot Weld expects Forgotten Rules to show his true worth only when he encounters easier ground again.
“It was a close call whether he ran or not and there’s no doubt he is significantly better on soft,” said Weld. “I also think he will be better back at two miles. He was cantering turning for home and I don’t think he quite got the trip.”
A second treble, on Waterloo Bridge, Curvy and War Envoy, took Moore’s tally for the week to eight with two days still to run, so matching the modern-day record held jointly by Lester Piggott (twice) and Pat Eddery when the meeting was staged over four days.
The Ribblesdale Stakes went to Ireland, as expected, but not to the hot favourite, the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Pleascach, but to David Wachman’s Curvy, continuing her remarkable rise up the ladder. The final step on to the top rung might involve a crack at either the Irish Derby or Oaks.
Waterloo Bridge’s chance was not obvious against a strong Richard Hannon-trained pair in the Norfolk Stakes and those punters who took 12-1 were perhaps taking note of the coincidence of it being the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo than any form considerations.
War Envoy, also trained by Aidan O’Brien, was win No 8 for Moore in the Britannia Handicap, but he was having none of it when encouraged to reflect on his sensational week: “I have to move on from the Gold Cup [Kingfisher’s defeat],” he said, still smarting about the one that got away.
Dettori’s 51st Royal Ascot victory was on Time Test, surely destined for much bigger things after taking apart good-class opposition in the Tercentenary Stakes.
Trainer Roger Charlton has made no secret of his admiration for the Dubawi colt and plans are now accordingly ambitious, possibly including taking on the very best in the Juddmonte International at York in August, a race sponsored by Time Test’s owner Khalid Abdullah.
Jimmy Fortune is expected to be out of action for up to two months after fracturing vertebrae in a fall in Wednesday’s Royal Hunt Cup.Reuse content