Ralph Beckett: It just gets harder [H&H VIP]

  • Last week’s Royal Ascot was as good a race meeting as I can remember. I’m pretty sure it gets harder to win there every year.

    Toronado cruised through the Queen Anne before winning with the minimum of fuss. Whether he will be able to match the fast improving Kingman is debatable, but he has got better from three years old to four.

    The aforementioned Kingman annihilated Night Of Thunder and others in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Held up off a slow pace, he winged past them all and looks as though he is improving from race to race.

    If he were mine, it would pain me that he was beaten in the 2000 Guineas. He is clearly miles better than the rest of his generation, but the history books show he was second on the day that matters most of all.

    We can assume that many of his peers will be ducking him in the future. Though I doubt that will be the case with Toronado.

    It looked like being a sensational meeting for Toronado’s owner, the new powerhouse of Al Shaqab Racing, which owns the Norfolk Stakes winner Baitha Alga and last year’s brilliant Arc de Triomphe winner Treve.

    But Treve moved poorly to post for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and ran poorly in the race. Perhaps she had a difficult preparation, but it must be remembered that she is by Motivator out of a mare by Anabaa, a pedigree that suggests last week’s fast surface was unsuitable.

    Furthermore, it was the first time she had run outside of Paris, a mere 30min from her Chantilly stables. No doubt we will see her back at her best in the autumn in France.

    The Gold Cup was an epic contest. Irish hurdler Missunited set a steady pace before quickening up out of Swinley Bottom and getting the whole field off the bridle, under a fine ride from Jim Crowley.

    But Joseph O’Brien on Leading Light and Ryan Moore (Estimate) were wise to it, and the former prevailed in a pulsating three-way finish.

    There was plenty of sympathy for Estimate, who had missed work in the spring and rightly so. But Leading Light was the best horse on the day.

    Rizeena bounced back from a poor run in the 1000 Guineas to win the Coronation Stakes. The best two-year-old filly of her generation, she had not run well at Newmarket in four starts.

    Probably because of this her trainer, optimistic octogenarian Clive Brittain’s faith in her never wavered. I can’t think that I will still be at it at his age, or with his enthusiasm. His record in Group Ones is remarkable and one that should be revered.

    Of the trainers, Sir Michael Stoute came out on top, just outpointing John Gosden, each of them with four winners. But they were both upstaged by Irishman Eddie Lynam who brought four horses and returned home with three winners.

    Sole Power and Slade Power won both the Group One sprints and he won the Queen Mary with Alexander Anthem.

    A year ago in this column, I wrote that Ryan Moore is the best jockey around because of his consistency. This year, he has been peerless in the saddle, and he continued with fine rides on the likes of Telescope and Arabian Moon.

    Our very best jockeys over the decades have got to the point where they dictate how a race is run — and the rest follow. Ryan’s ride on Telescope being a good example.

    Lester Piggott in the 1960s and 70s, Steve Cauthen in the early 80s, followed by Pat Eddery, Frankie Dettori and Kieren Fallon through the 80s, 90s and into the noughties.

    Ryan has reached that level and is without doubt the complete jockey. There are, of course, days when Richard Hughes is his equal, particularly around Goodwood and some of the lesser tracks such as Windsor and Kempton.

    However, the clamour for Ryan’s services in Hong Kong and Japan, where racing is more part of the public consciousness than here — and with prize-money to match — justifies the view that he is the best rider in the world.