With jockey James Doyle at the helm, Poet’s Word defeated favourite Cracksman to win the day’s feature race and give Stoute his 76th winner at the meeting. The success nudged him one winner clear of the late Sir Henry Cecil’s tally of 75, although he was to later add a 77th victory when Expert Eye won the Jersey Stakes.
Cracksman was the highest-rated horse in the world last year and in my people’s eyes was a certainty to take out the race, however Poet’s Word enjoyed a dream run under Doyle, travelling smoothly while Cracksman was consistently being cajoled along by his jockey Frankie Dettori, who himself was seeking to add to his opening-day treble.
Cracksman did pick up in the straight and hit the front, but he had no answer to the power of Poet’s Word as he swept round his outside, going onto a stunning two-and-a-quarter-length victory, with Godolphin’s Hawkbill a further distant eight lengths back in third.
Speaking afterwards, Stoute said, “It means a lot [to me] and to the whole stable as well.
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“The yard will love it. Henry did most of his training when it was a four-day meeting, so I have had an advantage. Nobody respected him greater than I did as a trainer.
“I wasn’t confident. This horse [Cracksman] had beaten us comprehensively in the Champion Stakes last year. Maybe Cracksman is not at his very best now, but we’ve beaten the others comprehensively.
Doyle said: “They went a hell of a pace all the way. I could see Cracksman even after going a furlong was under pressure to hold his pitch.
“I thought, ‘I’m going easy’, and from Swinley Bottom to the home turn I was travelling all over him.
“It was just a case of hanging on and in the back of my mind I knew this horse stays a mile and a half, so I still wanted to press the button early enough. He’s so tough, and fair play to everyone at Sir Michael’s.”
There was further celebration for Stoute in the final race of the day, the Jersey Stakes, as Expert Eye recorded an impressive win.
For much of the race it looked like Could It Be Love would make all the running under Ryan Moore but she tired and drifted to the far rail. However Expert Eye under jockey James McDonald quickened on his own down the middle of the track to draw right away and beat Society Power by four and a half lengths, who caught Could It Be Love on the line for second. The win not only presented Stoute with a double for the day but also a first success at Royal Ascot for McDonald.
The day’s opening race was the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes which was won by Signora Cabello for trainer John Quinn and jockey Oisin Murphy.
Country Rose was fast out of the gates and led alone towards the stands’ side, with Kurious and Red Balloons also showing pace. As the race progressed, Shades Of Blue took over, but with the field fanned across the width of the track, both Signora Cabello and Gossamer Wings reeled in Clive Cox’s filly.
Signora Cabello surged through to get the better of Gossamer Wings and Shades Of Blue in second and third respectively winning by a short head in a photo finish.
The first day of Royal Ascot was a quiet one for trainer Aidan O’Brien but he had reason to celebrate when Kew Gardens took out the Queen’s Vase.
After three disappointing efforts this season, the horse stormed to victory under Ryan Moore, giving O’Brien a 1-2-3 finish as Southern France stayed on for second ahead of stablemate and long-time leader Nelson.
With five victories in the Vase since 2007 coming into this for the trainer, there was every chance of success with three runners and it was Nelson, ridden by Aidan’s son Donnacha, who went about matters by dictating the early pace.
Turning in, the leader still had distance between him and the rest of the field who were struggling, all that is except Kew Gardens who was urged on by Moore before galloping on strongly to see out the mile and three-quarters trip by a four and a half length margin.
Aljazzi made up for last year’s disappointment in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes by taking the honours this time around.
Aljazzi was sent off as second favourite under William Buick and momentarily found trouble, but once she was switched towards the stands’ side she burst for home winning by three and three-quarter lengths. Tribute Act was well backed and coped with the step up in class to take a deserved second while Wilamina, who raced prominently under Frankie Dettori, was third.Billesdon Bess ran a mighty race under Hollie Doyle, as she led from the word go and only faded late on. Race favourite Hydrangea was settled in the early stages but proved to be a major disappointment, eventually finishing eighth of the 11 runners.
In the Royal Hunt Cup, the David Marnane-trained Settle For Bay enjoyed a dominant two and a quarter lengths victory under jockey Billy Lee.
After the field split into two groups, Love Dreams led a smaller far side group with Arcanada striding ahead on the stands’ side along with Cape Byron and Archetype. Afaak travelled well in the near side group but Settle For Bay emerged in the centre of the track and burst clear in the lime green silks worn by Lee. Afaak held on for second, outsider Circus Couture ran well to take third with What’s The Story fourth.
Tomorrow and Day 3 of Royal Ascot will see another six race card, with the big race of the afternoon being the Gold Cup due off at 4.20pm GMT.
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