The chorus in My Fair Lady sang about Ascot’s opening day, and how right they were to celebrate it. Three Group One races in succession gave it a Breeders’ Cup feel, but on a greener and more pleasant stage.
Henrythenavigator was the star turn, roaring home in the St James’s Palace Stakes to win his third Group One on the bounce, following his two Guineas victories. As usual, Aidan O’Brien says he’s the best horse he has ever trained — he might be nearly right.
Two races earlier, Henrythenavigator’s jockey Johnny Murtagh posted the first part of his double aboard Haradasun in the Queen Anne Stakes. John Magnier’s Coolmore operation bought a half-share of this Australian star last year, and he just got up to beat Princess Zahra Aga Khan’s tough, talented filly Darjina.
The Australians were the big noise in the King’s Stand Stakes, upgraded this year to Group One level, and Takeover Target ran a cracker for them in second behind another foreign raider, Equiano. Equiano is the first Spanish-trained horse to win at the Royal meeting, but it was a pretty cross-cultural success.
The son of Acclamation was ridden by a Frenchman, Olivier Peslier, and owned by an Irishman, John Acheson, who bought him just two weeks ago. Acheson is adept at buying horses before a big win — he bought Liscalgot, the grey mare ridden by Dermot Lennon to win the show jumping World Championship in Jerez in 2002 six months before the Games. And it was Equiano’s last win for Spain — he is now to be trained in Lambourn by Barry Hills.
Stay in touch with all the action from Royal Ascot on Horseandhound.co.uk, and don’t H&H’s special report on the meeting, on sale Thursday 26 June