Top performances in Royal Ascot’s weird and wonderful week
Kyle Merrick picks out his top performances from a weird and wonderful Royal Ascot 2020
Royal Ascot 2020 was a weird and wonderful week. A racing extravaganza with six extra six races resulting in 36 contests to be enjoyed.
The changes to the race programme across the five days were constructed to help all participants in the industry, for which the organisers should be applauded.
One change I hope they keep was this year’s curtain raiser – the seven-furlong Buckingham Palace Handicap. This should have helped the congestion in the Royal Hunt Cup and Wokingham to allow more runners to take their chance.
Jim Crowley and owner, Hamdan Al Maktoum, enjoyed an excellent Royal meeting with six victories. Many were impressive at that, with Motakhayyel getting the ball rolling in the opener, proving stand-side was the place to be as he scooted clear to win by over a length.
It was “Tremendous Tuesday” for the pair as they took the feature, the King’s Stand Stakes, with Battaash achieving the win at the third attempt. A deserving win for the connections who were probably among the few who enjoyed the silence of the Berkshire grandstands.
Nazeef (pictured, right) was the final leg of the treble on Tuesday as she continued her amazing winning run by following up her Kempton success, but only just. It was a great battle to the line in the Duke of Cambridge to beat Agincourt.
From Group 1’s to handicaps, the combination continued to show their versatility by taking the King George V with Hukum and, twenty-fours later, with Khaloosy in the Britannia.
A win at the Royal meeting on only his third start is some performance for the three-year-old. A name to keep in the notebook.
Last but not least, Molatham confirmed his two-year-old form by taking the Jersey Stakes in determined style by just holding off the Irish raider Monarch of Egypt. It would be intriguing to see if a rematch happens as they both drew clear nicely.
It was not just the blue and white colours having a perfect Ascot. Fantastic Frankie seems unstoppable – crowds or no-crowds, a winning machine.
He achieved national news headlines on numerous days. My favourite would be Stradivarius who simply laughed at his rivals by romping home to take his third consecutive Ascot Gold Cup in epic style. Some assemblance of Royal Ascot normality. Admittedly there were no Irish opponents to serve up a challenge, nevertheless any performance like that is breath-taking.
Dettori continued to fly high from start to finish. He and John Gosden both showed the importance of Newcastle’s all-weather track as Frankly Darling took Group 2 glory in the Ribblesdale. Another cheeky success for a partnership that continues to flourish. Hopefully, a big future awaits the Frankel colt.
Another treble of the week belonged to Frankie on the final day with a Group 2 and two Group 1 which probably few jockeys are able to boast.
The global star in the Sport of Kings made it an extra special milestone as all three wins were for different countries. Campanella for Wesley Ward and America – a well-deserved victory.
Ireland was next with Alpine Star defying a long absence to take the Coronation Stakes with a brave run getting through on the inside to power away. One of most eye-catching performances of the week.
Finally, Palace Pier gave Dettori a snug home victory in the St James’s Palace, nosing in front of Pinatubo. Another from Gosforth Park to Group 1 success. Unbeaten now in four. Another promising contender.
My second highlight of the 2020 meeting after Stradivarius would be the Windsor Castle as there was a royal winner. Tactical, glued to the grandstand rail, achieving gold for the Queen. Future plans would be exciting to know.
The historic running of the Golden Gates handicap was boosted by the first duel training partnership to take victory at Royal Ascot with Highland Chief for Paul and Oliver Cole. He came from almost last to first. The amount of progress down the home straight was impressive under jockey Rossa Ryan, carrying top weight, who claimed his first Royal success.
Battleground was not stopping at the line in the seven-furlong Chesham, a win for Aiden O’Brien. Understandably he didn’t have the usual number of raiders this year but still putting on a training masterclass.
It must have been a very odd experience if you got your first Royal win this year with no crowds and wearing a mask, but it still happened. Five-pound claimer Thore Hammer Hansen steered Coeur De Lion to success to end day one in the Ascot Stakes.
Ben Curtis kept Dandalla’s unbeaten record intact in the Albany by rocketing clear. A superstar filly in the making. Hollie Doyle with Scarlet Dragon sprung a surprise in the Duke Of Edinburgh. Victory number two of the week for Alan King.
My final choice to make this review is the Kirby/Cox combination. The historic win of Nando Parrado in the Coventry with the biggest SP in Royal Ascot history, 150/1, won’t be forgotten.
The undoubted star for the duo though was Golden Horde in the Commonwealth Cup. A dominant performance in the Group 1.
It may have been different but still the racing royalty was delivered in a spectacular week.
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