They all came to see George Washington. Could last year’s 2000 Guineas winner return from a nine-month hiatus that included a spell in the covering shed at Coolmore and show us that he truly is simply the best?
The answer is – maybe. Not a very satisfactory one, but the Danehill colt’s performance in the Queen Anne Stakes revealed flashes of brilliance without actually winning the mile Group One. He took fourth in a four-way photo behind Godolphin’s Italian purchase Ramonti, but he was certainly finishing the fastest and would have won in a few more strides.
After pulling Mick Kinane’s arms out early on, “Gorgeous George” seemed to hit a flat spot before unleashing a tiger-like burst of speed — just a little too late. He is entitled to be ring-rusty — his last race was here last September, where he contemptuously brushed the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes field aside — and if he is still in love with the game, he should be making hearts pound before long.
But even if he couldn’t win that one, the day belonged to George Washington’s trainer, Aidan O’Brien. The Irishman saddled the favourite, Henrythenavigator, to win the opening Coventry Stakes — it was his jockey Mick Kinane’s 39th Royal Ascot winner — and also trained the first three home in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
The St James’s Palace Stakes was the race that was supposed to prove that Cockney Rebel, winner of the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, was a superstar. But Geoff Huffer’s handsome bay could only finish fifth. In front of him was O’Brien’s Excellent Art, Duke Of Marmalade and the French 2000 Guineas winner Astronomer Royal.
A rare Royal Ascot Group race without a Coolmore runner was the King’s Stand Stakes, a five-furlong Group Two. Much had been made in the press of the quartet of Australian sprinters who had come for a crack at this race and Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes, and they were spot on.
The speedball Miss Andretti zipped home comfortably to win her fourth Group race on the bounce for trainer Lee Freedman, breaking the track record by 21/2 seconds. Princess Haya’s Dandy Man did well to finish second and break up the Aussie monopoly — Magnus and Takeover Target took third and fourth.
Keep up to date with all the action from Royal Ascot on horseandhound.co.uk, and don’t miss Horse & Hound’s full report complete with fantastic photos in next Thursday’s magazine (28 June, ’07)