{"piano":{"sandbox":"false","aid":"u28R38WdMo","rid":"R7EKS5F","offerId":"OF3HQTHR122A","offerTemplateId":"OTQ347EHGCHM"}}

H&H analysis: ‘Ascot was rocking once again’ – the full 2021 Royal Ascot report *H&H Plus*


  • Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Crowds, including The Queen, make a welcome return to the Berkshire amphitheatre where some terrific horses show their flair

    AT some stage in the future, Royal Ascot 2021 will be remembered for the terrific horses which bestrode its stage; the milers Palace Pier (pictured winning, left), Poetic Flare and Alcohol Free; the middle-distance mares Love and, my favourite, Wonderful Tonight; the new kid on the staying block Subjectivist; and the sprinters Campanelle, Dragon Symbol, Oxted and Dream Of Dreams.

    But in the immediate aftermath, while we are still drying out from Friday’s deluge which meant the last two days were run in very testing conditions – heavy is for Cheltenham – it was the return of crowds to racing in some numbers for the first time in 15 months that was one of the main themes of the week.

    The limited window for ticket sales and the hoops of Covid protocols and tests racegoers had to go through once the meeting had been nominated for one of the Government’s “event research programmes” meant it was something of a half-way house between last year’s zero crowd behind-closed-doors and, hopefully, the return of 70,000 for the Gold Cup next year in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.

    For some three-year-olds it was the first time they had seen any sort of crowd, and both Mohaafeth, winner of the Hampton Court, and Dragon Symbol, who had the Commonwealth Cup taken off him in favour of the narrowly defeated Campanelle after leaning all over the American filly, drifted away from the noise.

    For the first two days it was a bit like tea at the Ritz on a quiet day as maybe two-thirds of the possible 12,000 turned up. But the atmosphere built through the week and Ascot was rocking on Saturday, and I am pretty sure the arrival of The Queen – much missed for the first four days – for her first day at the meeting helped put a spring in everyone’s step.

    It was, however, the biggest player of the week, Stradivarius, who did not pay much attention to the script that he was to win a fourth Gold Cup, undone perhaps by his advancing age, getting too far behind, then enjoying little luck in running.

    There is also a suggestion that Stradivarius, who has always been a bit colty – he is old-school and no one has told him it is not the done thing these days to wolf whistle at the ladies – fell for the oldest trick in the book, a honey trap. For almost two miles Joey Sheridan parked the filly Princess Zoe alongside Stradivarius and, whether it had any effect or not, it was certainly a clever ride.

    That is conjecture but ultimately, however, Stradivarius was undone by Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist, who came into the race slightly ignored despite having won his last two, a Group One on heavy at Longchamp and a Group Two on quick ground in Meydan, where he broke the track record.

    Trying two-and-a-half miles for the first time, the four-year-old by Teofilo, ridden by the unflappably loyal Joe Fanning, looked extra special quickening five lengths clear of the field.

    Fanning was one of the human heroes of this year’s Royal meeting – there is no greater sign of respect for a colleague than the weighing room emptying of his colleagues to lead the cheering. That was touching – or, as Fanning in his typically understated way described it – “very nice”.

    Looking forward from Ascot there are two things I would like to see; a match-up between Palace Pier, the Queen Anne winner, and Poetic Flare, the impressive St James’s Palace winner, in a race like the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood; and also Wonderful Tonight in a soft ground Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe.

    Tuesday

    Jockey Frankie Dettori performs his trademark flying dismount as he celebrates winning the Queen Anne Stakes on Palace Pier during day one of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday June 15, 2021.

    Frankie Dettori keeps the crowds happy with his trademark flying dismount after piloting Palace Pier to top spot in the Queen Anne on day one of the meeting


    THERE is nothing like a Frankie Dettori winner to get the action off to a flyer, and Palace Pier was a comfortable length-and-a-half winner of the Queen Anne Stakes to cement his position as the best older miler in Europe.

    “I needed Valium this morning I was so excited,” explained Dettori, who last year said he needed an espresso to get motivated without a crowd. “He was a pressure horse in a pressure race and I wanted everything to go right. I can breathe now. It’s 31 years ago since my first Ascot winner; there’s been so much water under the bridge but I am still getting the same kick.”

    Dettori’s description of him as the best miler in the world went just under two hours without challenge after Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare showed an explosive turn of foot to win the St James’s Palace Stakes by 4½ lengths. It was Poetic Flare’s fourth Group One in 45 days (one every 11 days six hours) so his middle name is “tough”.

    Jim Bolger, his owner-breeder and trainer, said: “I would have accepted any margin but was genuinely expecting a performance like that. He’s extremely hardy.”

    The King’s Stand Stakes was a masterpiece of planning by Lambourn trainer Roger Teal, who felt a fast-run stiff five furlongs would be ideal for Oxted. The field set off like a drag race and the key players were walking at the furlong marker. Cieren Fallon gets on so well with Oxted and swept through from the back to record his first Royal Ascot winner.

    Wednesday

    Love ridden by jockey Ryan Moore on their way to winning the Prince Of Wales's Stakes during day two of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse. Picture date: Wednesday June 16, 2021.

    Love wins on her seasonal reappearance for trainer Aidan O’Brien

    SOME years Aidan O’Brien could legitimately claim squatters rights to Ascot’s horseshoe-shaped winners’ enclosure. Although he only paid it a couple of visits this year, his win and place prize-money came to over £800,000, more than anyone else.

    Love, who carried all before her in her Classic year winning the 1000 Guineas, Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks, managed to win on her seasonal reappearance, though James Fanshawe’s Breeders’ Cup winner Audarya pushed her all the way up the straight.

    The two juvenile races on Wednesday threw up good results. Gavin Cromwell was originally best known for being Tiger Roll’s farrier, then a jumps trainer which has seen him win a Welsh National, Champion Hurdle and, in March, a Stayers Hurdle and Albert Bartlett. On Wednesday Quick Suzy won him the Queen Mary over five furlongs.

    Chipotle, a bargain basement 10,000gns yearling purchase owned by the Woodway 20 syndicate, gave Eve Johnson-Houghton her first Royal Ascot two-year-old winner when he and Charlie Bishop took the Windsor Castle by 2½ lengths.

    Thursday

    Jockey Joe Fanning (C) smiles after riding Subjectivist to victory in the Gold Cup on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London on June 17, 2021. - Royal Ascot reopened its doors to 12,000 racing fans a day but the coronavirus will still take a significant financial toll on the event. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

    Joe Fanning and Subjectivist lead the field in the Gold Cup

    IF the defeat of Stradivarius, who finished fourth behind Subjectivist when going for a fourth Gold Cup, did anything, it underlined the achievement of Yeats, the only horse to have won four. Subjectivist, however, looked very special. It took Joe Fanning, whose third Group One it was despite being in the top 10 all-time winning Flat jockeys, an age to pull him up.

    “He won in France last season on heavy ground and people were thinking he needed heavy ground to excel,” said trainer Mark Johnston, who was winning his fourth Gold Cup. “But then he went onto Dubai and that was the big question mark, could he go on fast ground? That was the performance of his life.”

    It was a good meeting for the North on the whole, but with Richard Fahey winning the Norfolk Stakes, John Quinn taking the Buckingham Palace Stakes with Highfield Princess book-ending a Middleham winner in the Gold Cup, this was a particularly fine day.

    William Haggas’s decision to pull Mohaafeth out of the Derby on the day because of the soft ground was fully vindicated when Sheikh Hamdan’s colt won the Hampton Court looking like a mile and a quarter was the limit of his stamina. He also resisted the temptation to supplement trial winner Alenquer for the Derby when he beat the Sir Mark Todd-trained Tasman Bay in the King Edward VII Stakes on Friday.

    Friday

    ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: David Probert celebrates on board Sandrine after winning the Albany Stakes on Day Four of the Royal Ascot Meeting at Ascot Racecourse on June 18, 2021 in Ascot, England. A total of twelve thousand racegoers made up of Owners and the Public are permitted to attend the meeting due to it being an Events Research Programme (ERP) set up by the government due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

    David Probert celebrates victory in the Albany Stakes on Sandrine

    THE Commonwealth Cup provided one of the best finishes of the meeting when Dragon Symbol (Oisin Murphy) and the big American filly Campanelle (Frankie Dettori) went hammer and tongs with each through the final furlong and drew five lengths clear of the third.

    However, first across the line Dragon Symbol drifted across the course taking Dettori’s mount with him, and the stewards decided to reverse the placings – the first time a Group One winner had been “chucked out” at Royal Ascot since 1988.

    “It’s never nice winning a race in the stewards’ room, it leaves a bitter taste,” said Dettori.

    Sandrine, who had given Andrew Balding a second juvenile winner of the week to go with Berkshire Shadow’s first-day win in the Coventry, was followed into the winners’ enclosure by stable companion Alcohol Free, who took the Coronation Stakes. It was quite a comeback for Oisin Murphy to lose one Group One and then win another all in the space of 35 minutes.

    I am beginning to love Murphy for his wit and wisdom.

    “I said to my valet when he put his arm round me,” he said after Alcohol Free’s win, “‘There’s no place for tears in here. There are far worse things going on in the world, we’re in the entertainment industry, and I’m steering these marvellous animals and keep looking forward to the next one.’”

    Saturday

    Wonderful Tonight ridden by William Buick on their way to winning the Hardwicke Stakes during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse. Picture date: Saturday June 19, 2021.

    Wonderful Tonight (William Buick) gives an impressive performance

    DAVID MENUISIER, the Sussex-based Frenchman who trains on the Pulborough gallops where Dancing Brave once strutted his stuff, has a superstar filly in Wonderful Tonight. When it came up soft he let her take her chance in the Hardwicke despite being what he described as “85% fit” and she showed a definite turn of foot when William Buick sent her on turning in.

    “Wonderful Tonight is an absolute champion,” said Menuisier. “She was running against tough opposition with the benefit of at least one run, so you always have to be on the side of caution, but she is amazing.”

    It was a first Royal Ascot winner for owner Chris Wright. He has had horses for 40 years including Classic winners Culture Vulture, Dark Angel, Nicer and Chrisellium but this was his first Royal Ascot winner.

    “There are winners and winners, but a Royal Ascot winner…” he said. “To win at Royal Ascot is like I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

    ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 19: Top hats on show on Day Five of the Royal Ascot Meeting at Ascot Racecourse on June 19, 2021 in Ascot, England. A total of twelve thousand racegoers made up of owners and the public are permitted to attend the meeting due to it being an Events Research Programme (ERP) set up by the Government due to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

    Finally… all dressed up with somewhere to go, 12,000 owners and members of the public attend the Royal Ascot meet as part of the Government’s events research programme


    Alenquer ridden by Tom Marquand celebrates winning the King Edward VII Stakes during day four of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse. Picture date: Friday June 18, 2021.  Above:

    Tom Marquand gives a subtle fist pump to celebrate his win in the King Edward VII Stakes with Alenquer – in stark contrast


    ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: Cieren Fallon riding Oxted (R) win The King's Stand Stakes on day one of the Royal Ascot meeting at Ascot Racecourse on June 15, 2021 in Ascot, England. A total of twelve thousand racegoers made up of owners and the public are permitted to attend the meeting due to it being an Events Research Programme (ERP) set up by the Government due to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

    Cieren Fallon and Oxted triumph in the King’s Stand Stakes by 1¾ lengths


    Rohaan (4) ridden by Shane Kelly crosses the line first to win the Wokingham Stakes, during day five of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse. Picture date: Saturday June 19, 2021.

    It’s a close call for David Evans and Rohaan as they triumph by a neck in the Wokingham Stakes

    Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (L) and Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall speak to jockey Kevin Manning after he won the St James's Palace Stakes on Poetic Flare on the first day of the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London on June 15, 2021. - Royal Ascot is preparing to open its doors to 12,000 racing fans a day but the coronavirus will still take a significant financial toll on the event. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

    HRH The Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall congratulate Kevin Manning (left) for his victory in the Group One St James’s Palace Stakes aboard Poetic Flare


    ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: Sir Mark Todd on Day Four of the Royal Ascot Meeting at Ascot Racecourse on June 18, 2021 in Ascot, England. A total of twelve thousand racegoers made up of owners and the public are permitted to attend the meeting due to it being an Events Research Programme (ERP) set up by the Government due to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

    A relaxed former event rider Mark Todd (right) is all smiles at this, his first Royal Ascot as a trainer

    This report can also be read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale date 24 June 2021

    You may also be interested in…