Royal Ascot: Highland Reel takes Prince of Wales’s Stakes; Ward bags another

Bob Kieckhefer recaps Day 2 of Royal Ascot, coverage presented by Fasig-Tipton, home of the Sept. 10 Turf Showcase auction:

Highland Reel reeled in another Group 1 victory with a gutsy win in the Wednesday’s feature race at Royal Ascot, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1), while French horses won two of the big events and American trainer Wesley Ward pulled off an upset in the day’s finale. Ward now has won nine races overall at Royal Ascot.

The weather was as hot as the racing, prompting even Her Majesty the Queen to remove her yellow coat and watch from the Royal Enclosure in a lovely flowered dress. Gentlemen, in a rather stunning departure from tradition, also were allowed to remove their coats.

The Prince of Wales’s

Highland Reel, a 5-year-old son of Galileo, already an international star at the top level and defending champ in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), tracked the early pace in the Prince of Wales’s. Jockey Ryan Moore sent him to the front as the field hit the straight.

But the classy international field wasn’t ready to concede anything, and both Decorated Knight and Ulysses quickly ranged up alongside Highland Reel. In the final furlong, it was clear the firm footing and his own courage gave Highland Reel the edge and he rebounded to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Source: Ascot Racecourse

Decorated Knight held on for second with Ulysses third, giving the world’s top sire, Galileo, a clean sweep of the top three placings.

“He has never lacked pace,” said winning trainer Aidan O’Brien. “So we were hoping today over this distance that courage would come into it. He is tactically very quick and unbelievably courageous.”

“He has been racing at the top level for the last few years, and he is just amazing,” the Ballydoyle trainer added. “We always thought the world of him because he has always been a natural, brilliant athlete. Sometimes he gets beat but if the pace is strong and if it comes anywhere near courage, then he will be there fighting.”

Moore, who notched his 44th Royal Ascot win, added, “I’d say it was probably a career-best from him today … We knew he would see it out real well and the last furlong was his best.”

Highland Reel was a fading seventh in his 5-year-old debut, the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night at Meydan over yielding turf. Returning to good ground, he won the Investec Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom in the intervening race.

Out of an Australian-bred Danehill mare, Hveger, Highland Reel has won at the highest level from Chicago to Hong Kong. Wednesday’s win likely will put him back at Ascot in July for a repeat try in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1). But it also could be a springboard to a return to the Breeders’ Cup and/or another try in the William Hill Cox Plate (G1) in Australia in the fall. He was third — behind the mighty mare Winx — in that fixture two years ago and a rematch would be quite a race.

The Jersey

The Jersey Stakes for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs was delayed briefly while Glastonbury Song had a shoe repaired near the stalls. But once they got going, it was French raider Le Brivido who showed his footware to her rivals.

With Pierre-Charles Boudot in the irons, the Siyouni colt raced with the main pack down the center of the course while a smaller group switched to the stands side. With a furlong to run, Irish-based long shot Spirit of Valor was out front in the smaller group and looked to be home free. But as they came together in the final yards, Le Brivido found an extra ounce of effort, winning by a neck.

Source: Ascot Racecourse

Mubtasim, on the stands side rail, took third by a short head.

Le Brivido was having just his fourth start. After two wins, he was second in the French 2000 Guineas on May 14 at Deauville, leading near the finish but headed by Brametot.

Wednesday, said trainer Andre Fabre, “He was beaten with a furlong to go. He showed his class and courage to come back and win.”

“This is a new experience for him, coming to Ascot,” Fabre continued. “He is a relatively inexperienced horse and what I liked is that he showed he will get a mile. We will probably run him in the Prix Jacques Le Marois (G1). I had no doubt that he was a good horse.”

Duke of Cambridge

Qemah emerged from behind a moderate pace to take the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares by 1 length from Aljazzi. Usherette came with a rush to steal third from South African star Smart Call, who made all the early going.

Qemah, a 4-year-old Danehill Dancer filly, won the Coronation Stakes at last year’s Royal Ascot meeting, then came home to win the Prix Rothschild at Deauville in July. She was second in her season-opener at Lingfield in May.

Source: Ascot Racecourse

Owned by Al Shaqab Racing, Qemah is trained by Jean-Claude Rouget and Gregory Benoist applied the winning ride. Rouget said the filly will go back to Deauville and another swing at the Rothschild.

“She is a high-class filly and as a Group 1 winning filly running in here without a penalty, she should have been winning this,” said Al Shaqab racing manager Harry Herbert. “She needed her run at Lingfield last time to get the buzziness out of her, so it’s very exciting.

“It was fantastic viewing. The conditions of the race suited her. She still had to do it on the day but she was very impressive.”

Aljazzi, who just missed by 3/4 length, could be headed across the pond this summer.

“It’s great that she’s got some black type,” said the 4-year-old Shamardal filly’s trainer Marco Botti. “We try to achieve as much black type as we can, so we might aim for something in America, like the Beverly D. Stakes.” That’s the Group 1 Filly and Mare companion to the Arlington Million Aug. 12 at Arlington Park.

The Queen Mary

Heartache provided pure joy for the Hot to Trot Syndicate as she ran by the hot favorite, Happy Like A Fool, to take the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) for 2-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths. The late move denied trainer Wesley Ward a repeat win in the race that provided Lady Aurelia a springboard to fame just one year earlier. Out Of The Flames was third in the Queen Mary.

Source: Ascot Racecourse

Winning jockey Adam Kirby said his plan was to “let her chill a bit” while tracking Happy Like A Fool and that worked to perfection. Entering the final two furlongs of the sprint, Kirby set Heartache down, and she quickly went by inside her rival and on to victory.

Many of the 75 members of the Hot to Trot Syndicate charged into the winner’s enclosure to celebrate the achievement of their heroine, who is leased from her breeder, Whitsbury Manor Stud.

Heartache, a Kylachy filly, won at first asking at Bath in May impressively enough to go to the post Wednesday at 5-1 odds in a field of 23. Happy Like A Fool, off a single win at Keeneland, was the odds-on favorite.

“We knew she was nice, but we were not sure how nice,” said winning trainer Clive Cox. “To win at this level is what it is all about. I was a bit worried when I saw the American filly, who looked pretty special in the paddock, and when Adam took her on as early as he did I was a bit concerned. Adam rode her with complete confidence, and is a pretty good fellow in the saddle.

“Two-year-olds are my passion, the stars of the future, and she is.”

Ward was philosophical in defeat.

“She broke well and was there throughout like all mine have been in the past,” he said of Happy Like A Fool. “But the other filly was just a little bit more talented than our filly today. Hopefully, we can turn the tables in the future.

“All these horses are young 2-year-olds, even though mine are more forward. With that in mind, I do think that this filly is a big filly and I feel that she will mature into something special in the future,” Ward added.

The Sandringham

Ward stole a bit of redemption in the day’s final race, the Sandringham for 3-year-old fillies — even though midway through the race, he wasn’t too happy with Jamie Spencer’s ride.

Con Te Partiro, a Scat Daddy filly out of the Street Cry mare Temple Street, was dead last in the early going as Spencer moved from his middle gate toward the stands-side rail, which all day had seemed the place to be on the Ascot straight mile course.

Revving up in the final furlongs, Spencer shot through a big opening and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Rain Goddess — at odds of 20-1.

“That was an unbelievable run by Jamie,” Ward said. “I don’t want to tell you all the awful names I was calling him early in the race. The ride got us there.”

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