Royal ascent of blond bombshell

Sue Montgomery explains how a bold approach paid dividends at Ascot
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The Independent Online
THE finest sight at Royal Ascot last week outshone all the gloss and frippery in the enclosures, and probably cost a lot less. And the ovation given to Double Trigger after his magnificent win in the Gold Cup left no doubt about the public's appreciation of his performance.

It takes a special horse to lead all the way in a two-and-a-half mile race, but Double Trigger is not just an out-and-out slogger. The way he quickened in the straight and left his rivals floundering smacked of pure class, and with blond good looks in addition to his ability, he emerged as the star of the week, one for racegoers to take to their hearts.

His victory was an entirely satisfactory end to a meticulously-planned operation by owner Ron Huggins, trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Jason Weaver. The colt had twice been beaten by the Gold Cup favourite Moonax, and his connections knew that their best chance of turning the tables lay in a strong gallop all the way to expose any flaws in his chief rival's stamina. Johnston explained: "We impressed on Jason that we absolutely had to have a good pace, and that if no-one else went off in front then he must do it."

Such positive tactics are rare and refreshing nowadays, but neither Huggins nor Johnston have ever been a pair to fight shy with their horses, and Double Trigger, a bargain 7,200-guineas buy, now has the Melbourne Cup pencilled in on his agenda.

The other two races with Group One status, the St James's Palace Stakes and the Coronation Stakes, both produced decisive winners. The only question left after Bahri's annihilation of some of the best three-year-old mile colts in Europe in the former was why he had managed only one previous win, and his clash with the older generation in the Sussex Stakes will be one to savour. Ireland's champion Ridgewood Pearl, who set a course record in the fillies' event, will miss the Goodwood showdown in favour of the French equivalent, the Prix du Moulin.

The sprinting title is now wide open after the unexpected defeats of the two perceived hot-shots Lake Coniston and Mind Games, the best-backed horse of the week with more than pounds 250,000 staked on his elegant nose. However, they will live to fight another day. Not so, sadly, The Little Thief. Amid the glamour there was a reminder of racing's harsh side when this bonny colt fractured a leg in the Gold Cup and could not be saved.

The reverses suffered by Lake Coniston, beaten by his draw as much as anything, Mind Games, and the week's other odds-on favourite, Balanchine, confirmed that however much punters would wish it, horses are not machines. Neither, it would seem, are trainers. Beauchamp Hero, entered for the Hardwicke Stakes against the advice of John Dunlop, became the master of Arundel's fifth winner of the week, and Pentire, who won three Derby trials but could not run at Epsom because Geoff Wragg did not enter him, provided a taste of what-might-have-been with a trouncing of Classic Cliche in the King Edward VII Stakes.

The way he cruised past the French Derby fourth puts him among the contenders for this season's middle-distance honours and although the proximity of Friday's race to next Sunday's Irish Derby rules out a contest with the classic colts at this stage, they may have to look to their laurels in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot next month.

Dunlop was outstandingly the week's most successful trainer, and Michael Kinane was the leading rider with four wins, three seconds, three thirds and four fourths from 19 rides. The new faces in the winners' enclosure included Johnston and David Loder, whose filly Blue Duster could hardly have been more impressive in the Queen Mary Stakes.

The racing at Royal Ascot supplied just about everything in terms of excitement and excellence - even a winner for the Queen - and set up some fascinating future competition. And by common consent, another of the week's outstanding successes was the improvement in public relations brought by the course's new administrators. Racecourse director Douglas Erskine- Crum and clerk Nick Cheyne took over the management late last year and have dragged attitudes and facilities into the 1990s. Part of racing's charm is its feeling of tradition, but at Royal Ascot that aspect, visible as officiousness and pomposity, had become a negative quality. Last week's crowds, at 214,808 some 10 per cent up on 1993, bore witness to the new regime's excellent efforts.

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