Trigger shows his mettle in Cup

Royal Ascot: Victory for the stayers' crown proves Johnston's chestnut no flash in the pan and books ticket to Melbourne
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The Independent Online
It was fitting that on the flashiest day of the social calendar the main race here should go to racing's flashiest horse. The chocolate-box colt Double Trigger won the Gold Cup on Ladies' Day.

In his own early days, movie looks were all the chestnut colt had to offer. His striking form, splashed with four white socks, a blond mane and tail, could be seen trotting along at the rear of Mark Johnston's string on Middleham Moor. The two-year-old was so slow he was considered for a three-day eventing career and a gelding operation.

On the racecourse, however, Double Trigger has proved to be a talented, if idiosyncratic, figure. Before yesterday, though, there were legions who would swear his courage was contained in a box the size of a pea. Such opinion was tested the moment Jason Weaver bounced his mount out of the stalls and tried to make all in the 20-furlong race. As the partnership swung into the straight judgement point was reached, and at the very stage when the colt was expected to shrivel he galvanised himself and strode clear for a five-length win. The circus horse named after Roy Rogers' steed had proved he had the durability of a pit pony.

"We knew he would stay today but we had great reservations about whether he would lead all the way as he's such a lazy horse," Johnston, who was winning his first race at the meeting (and doubled up in the last with Diaghilef), said. "Obviously he's learning." Johnston himself is coming along sartorially, if his clan tartan waistcoat was anything to go by.

Double Trigger's earnings will be translated into an air fare, as the arrangement at the start of the season was that he would travel to the Melbourne Cup if he earned his passage price.

Previous prize-money earned by another Gold Cup runner, The Little Thief, will now be spent on hospital bills. The French colt fractured a fetlock in the back straight and was subsequently fitted with a double splint in an effort to save his life.

Another Gold Cup participant, the runner-up Moonax, was also involved in a serious injury. Barry Hills's colt, who eats stable lads for breakfast, turned his savage attentions yesterday to a member of the Queen's security umbrella, kicking a detective so severely on the arm that he had to be taken to hospital.

The Queen had earlier saved a desperate day for the nation when her Phantom Gold won the Ribblesdale Stakes. This was some comfort for those who received reports of disaster from Pretoria to Lord's and Downing Street. Even Monarch was vanquished in the last.

Her Majesty was as stunned as those who had backed the strongly fancied favourite, Dance A Dream, as she went to collect her prize. "I've not been in here for such a long time," she said in the winners' enclosure.

The fashion gurus will have made note of her blue dress, decorated by a brooch of two shiny jewels, one blue, one white, about the size of conkers, and the garb of the Princess Royal, who was in a white outfit decorated with a pattern of stunted bananas.

Lord Huntingdon, Phantom Gold's trainer, confirmed that his owner had been rather thrilled. "She was delighted," he said. "This is the one meeting of the year she can ever attend all four days and she thinks it's terrific. She'll live on that for the rest of this year. I, in the meantime, have got to go to Wolverhampton and Southwell."

Such venues will never be graced by So Factual, who collected another trophy for the Godolphin cabinet when he took the Cork and Orrery Stakes. The five-year-old, who is now a consideration for the July Cup, was the third leg of a treble for Lanfranco Dettori, who is now favourite to take the title of the meeting's top rider.

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