Jessica Harrington watched from behind the sofa as star filly Alpine Star scorched to victory in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, writes James Toney.
Two years ago Harrington enjoyed one of her favourite days as a trainer as Alpha Centauri won her first race at the royal meeting.
And while she was back home in Co Kildare rather than dressed to impress in the royal enclosure, the feeling was just the same as Alpine Star followed her half-sister to a victory in the same Group One race.
"Watching it on the telly is very hard," she said.
"I could not believe it because she was the only horse in the field that hadn’t had a run this year, but she is amazing.
"She is a half-sister to a complete superstar, Alpha Centauri, who gave me my first Royal Ascot winner. She was just amazing, she did it so easy.
“She is very laidback and nothing like Alpha Centauri, who was a great big, very imposing filly. This filly is not very big, she is not a great colour – a little bit of a mealy chestnut. If you saw her trotting around in the string, you wouldn’t pick her out, but she has the most wonderful attitude."
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) June 20, 2020
Coronavirus travel restrictions meant retained jockey Shane Foley was watching on television at Naas, where he won the opening race on Harrington's Sussex Garden.
So in came super sub Frankie Dettori, with the victory securing the popular Italian the meeting's top jockey title for the seventh time and also completing his collection of all eight of Royal Ascot's group one races.
“Frankie was probably squeezing her along before she turned in but every time you give her a squeeze, she will come for you," added Harrington, whose lean Ascot squad has been lodging with her great friend Nicky Henderson at his Lambourn yard.
"You are definitely very nervous when you are watching it the whole way from Ireland and it’s unbelievable.
“It is sad for Shane (Foley) that he isn’t allowed to come over and ride, but we are in very strange times. It is a very strange Ascot and I am absolutely thrilled to have a winner there again.
"I only sent over three horses and I am delighted with how they all ran. It is a strange year and something that we will probably never forget."
Dettori - Mr Royal Ascot - has been close in this race before but was delighted to compete his set of big races, 30 years after his first winner here as a teenager.
He thinks the horse will stretch to ten furlongs, though whether she gets the trip for a crack at the Epsom Oaks will now be a puzzle for Harrington to solve in the days ahead.
"This was my first ride for Jessie, I'm just glad I didn't let her down," said Dettori.
"Shane Foley rang me this morning to discuss the ride, it has been a team effort and I am delighted for everyone.
“I really fancied Alpine Star. I didn’t want to jinx it, so I kept quiet. Jessie approached me about ten days ago when she knew that Shane (Foley) couldn’t fly here."