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If things did not quite swing Frankie Dettori’s way in Thursday’s Gold Cup, the pendulum swung back fully in his favour in Friday's Commonwealth Cup when he was beaten on the American filly Campanelle but was awarded the race in the stewards’ room.
Trained by the Florida-based Wesley Ward Campanelle, a 5-1 shot, was beaten a head by Dragon Symbol, ridden by Oisin Murphy, in a humdinger of a race.
On the heavy ground the pair had moved five lengths clear and there was never more than a head between them in the last furlong. But Dragon Symbol pushed Campanelle across the course and, with the winning margin so narrow, the stewards had little choice but to reverse the result.
It was the first time the stewards had changed the outcome of a Group One at Ascot since the 1988 Gold Cup. It being Ascot naturally everyone was very polite, English and stiff upper lip about it and Watson, who trains 45 minutes down the M4, was the first to congratulate Ward - who had to cross an ocean to get to Ascot.
While the inquiry was taking place Ward had said that under US racing rules he would already have been drinking champagne and had the pictures taken. “Frankie’s going in there as a lawyer,” he added, hopefully. Under British rules the outcome was the same – it just took a little longer.
“It’s never nice winning a race in the stewards’ room, it leaves a bitter taste,” said Dettori. “I feel sorry for Dragon Symbol’s connections that I took it off them, but in these kind of conditions, when you are taken across about eight lanes, get nudged three times, lose momentum and get beaten a head, the stewards gave me the benefit of the doubt. I had reason to believe that my filly was still the best on the day.”
The trainer, who was celebrating his twelfth Ascot winner, said: “Winning at Royal Ascot is so special, especially with my children here from the onset in 2009. To have Campanelle ponied down by my first winner Strike The Tiger too means a lot.
“Royal Ascot has changed my life. If it wasn’t for Royal Ascot, my kids would be going to community college and instead my eldest son is going to law school in August.”
Redemption was swift for Murphy. In the very next race, the Coronation Stakes, he won with Alcohol Free who beat Snow Lantern a clear cut length-and-a-half with no trip to the stewards’ room required - although in an exemplar of pride coming before a fall, he tumbled off when she jinked as he celebrated with a pat on her neck after finishing.
It continued an excellent week for Andrew Balding after the juvenile winners Berkshire Shadow and Sandrine. “She’s very good,” he said.
“We had heavy hearts after Newmarket, because it isn’t often you go into a Classic expecting to win it. For whatever reason it didn’t pan out that day and she was below-par, but she was back to her best today, and she looked pretty good.
“This is the reason we do it. We’ve been looking forward to this meeting and had such high expectations. We thought we should have one winner with the number of horses we’ve got; two winners is fantastic, but three is cloud nine. We’ll have a bit of fun tonight.”
Reflecting on the inquiry Murphy said: “I didn't get a chance to stress ahead of Alcohol Free. I had a plan and I don't know if Andrew agreed with me, but he filled me with confidence when I told him what I was going to do.”
In what should get him on the short-list, at least, for the Nobel peace prize he added: “I said to my valet when he put his hand around me: ‘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.’”
Murphy’s completed his eventful afternoon with victory on Quickthorn for Hughie Morrison in the Duke of Edinburgh which took him to four winners for the week, one ahead of Dettori in the quest to be leading jockey.
On Saturday, Sir Michael Stoute, Royal Ascot's most successful trainer, can finish a quiet week with a bang by winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes with Dream Of Dreams while the rain cannot have come at a better time for David Menuisier’s Wonderful Tonight in the Hardwicke Stakes.
Rain-soaked Ascot goes ahead to prove sport - like water - will always find a way
By Alan Tyers
Royal Ascot is being used as a test event versus Covid, but Friday proved that some things can navigate all obstacles: the great British appetite for sport, a decent lunch and a good time.
This event’s hardy patrons must be largely unbothered by the global pandemic, and so they were certainly were not going to let a little thing like 26mm of rain before the first race wash their day away.
The late morning brought heavy downpours and gloomy rumours of a cancellation, and the Royal Enclosure Gardens looked more monsoon rainforest than manicured lawn.
The lone barkeep at the Trianon Moet and Chandon Bar, shivering in a thin plastic poncho, presented the card with a pessimistic eye: Pimm’s was surely going to be a non-runner, and even the reliable Champers was not well suited by the conditions. Would Hot Chocolate or Irish Coffee make a maiden Royal Ascot run?
But one man’s pain can be another’s profit, as the bookmakers know to their delight, and John in the Ascot shop was strongly fancying the chances of Umbrella Sales. Food and drink options from chips to Michelin stars did what they could on a day where many a diner’s thoughts turned to fish and other underwater fare. But it was cold as well as damp and one summer treat was definitely off the menu: Ice Cream Van was withdrawn, a disappointment for cone-ections.
Conditions had, if not exactly brightened, at least relented by the time of the first race, but if you wanted to social distance, this was the place to be. The lawns saw the odd pocket of diehards so spread out that they’d be lucky to catch sight of each other, let alone catch Covid off each other. And no area was more deserted, sorry to say, than the Royal Box: not so much as a minor Baronet on display.
The last time a day of Royal Ascot was rained off was 1964, when this newspaper reported that “angry spectators demanded their money back” and that buses got stuck in the mud, with 4,000 “marooned in the town overnight”.
This paper’s fashion editor Serena Sinclair had an epoch-shattering story on her hands and she did not fail to convey the seriousness of the situation: “I watched 10,000 hats wilt yesterday as slowly, then fiercely, the rain thickened into disaster.”
So how to avoid a headwear disaster this year? For ladies, judicious pinning and sheer grit. For gentlemen, Kristian Robson of tailor Oliver Brown had some advice: “This is why one should have a proper silk one: they dry out absolutely fine, it’s the imitation ones that get soggy and ruined. But the real enemy for the topper in this weather is not the rain but the criminal element: people take them off and put them down, and then find some rotter has made off with the topper and left a fake cardboard one in its place.”
A disaster indeed. But all such were averted as the action went ahead. An Ascot Green Coat, Roger, rated this his wettest day in 20 years but said that even the famous emerald outfits have moved with the times a little.
“They used to be made of curtain material and the dye would run so you’d end up with a green shirt to match. But these days the fabric is lighter, it’s the same as Guards uniforms, and dries better.” And the jockeys were also adapting on a "three-goggle" day: whipping a fresh pair on in running as the mud spatter demanded.
In 1964, they lost three days and the Sunday Telegraph that week reported: "the wash out has bogged Ascot with a £1m debt. A substantial profit was needed from the meeting to help pay for the £1.25m Royal Enclosure."
Plus ca change. Then, as now, racing simply cannot afford to shutter up: not for rain, not for viruses, not for hell and not for high water. And like water, sport will always find a way.
Looking for some tips for Royal Ascot day five?
A rollercoaster afternoon for Oisin Murphy
It ended up being a decent day for the dual champion jockey who finished with two winners after his Commonwealth Cup disappointment.
He piloted his mount Dragon Symbol to the post first in that race but was demoted to second after a stewards' inquiry. Campanelle and Frankie Dettori claimed the honours instead.
But Murphy came back from that heartbreak to win the Coronation Stakes on Alcohol Free then the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes on Quickthorn - proving why he's the champion.
Ascot 6.10pm result
1. Significantly (C Lee) 10-1
2. Boomshalaa (Andrea Atzeni) 9-2
3. Fantasy Master (Ray Dawson) 16-1
4. Dream Composer (Laura Pearson) 13-2
Wins the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes! He was last into the stalls and didn't look like he wanted to go in - but travelled well throughout on the stand side and was first past the post. Boomshalaa finished really strongly but just had a little bit too much to do.
Nineteen go to post
For the last race of the day at Royal Ascot. They're starting to lead them into the stalls but it's going to take a couple of minutes.
Just one more race to go today
It's the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes...here's Marlborough's verdict.
MO CELITA has been making hay on soft ground through the first half of this season, winningfive consecutive races in a little over two months, and once again the rain looks to have come for her on her biggest stage yet.
Given the likely ground conditions, the drop back to 5f should not inconvenience her too much and, with Oisin Murphy assuming riding duties, she looks set to run another big race, with further improvement impossible to rule out.
David Loughnane enjoyed an outstanding one-two in Wednesday’s Kensington Palace Stakes and sends forward the consistent Caroline Dale for her seasonal debut; she can reward each-way support.
Will Mo Celita land her sixth win in a row in the 6.10?
Ascot 5.35pm result
1. Quickthorn (Oisin Murphy) 7-2 Fav
2. Raymond Tusk (Jim Crowley) 25-1
3. Zabeel Champion (B A Curtis) 17-2
They're three abreast
With a couple of furlongs to go! Quickthorn, Raymond Tusk and Zabeel Champion battling it out! And Quickthorn motors clear to win. Another success for that man Oisin Murphy, who has responded superbly to his Commonwealth Cup disappointment.
And they're off
In the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes! Zabeel Champion at the front, with Quickthorn well placed in behind. As they pass halfway it's still those horses in the first two with Tritonic third.
Marlborough fancies the favourite, Quickthorn, in the next:
It was hard not to be impressed by the manner in which QUICKTHORN romped away with a 1m4f handicap at Haydock last month, powering away from his rivals to score by eight-and-a-half lengths and, perhaps crucially in this context, showing a pronounced knee action in the process.
Trainer Hughie Morrison is not overly frivolous with his Royal Ascot entries, and thus anything he brings into this meeting invariably demands a great deal of respect.
From a potentially favourable double-figure draw, Quickthorn can prove the one they all have to beat. Tritonic ran an excellent race to finish second at this meeting last year, and can go very close once again.
Until our next race, the 5.35pm Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes.
After his first Royal Ascot win as a trainer with Create Belief, told ITV Racing: "It means the world to me, my wife and all the staff back home. It's a magical place and a magical day."
The Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes Handicap is up next
Here's the winning jockey Ben Coen
"I grew up watching Johnny [Murtagh] riding winners here and now I'm riding a winner for him - it's a dream come true.
"I couldn't ask for a better mentor, especially coming here for the first time. It's brilliant."
Ascot 5pm result
1. Create Belief (Ben Coen) 6-1
2. Samoot (Jim Crowley) 5-1 Fav
3. Messidor (D McMonagle) 14-1
4. She Do (Ray Dawson) 28-1
Two lengths up as they approach the final furlong. And she's running away with it!! The favourite Samoot trails about five lengths back in second. The Johnny Murtagh-trained Create Belief wins the Sandringham Stakes comfortably.
And away they go
In the Sandringham Stakes! Four horses in a group on the far side with the rest of the runners clustered together on the near side. Divine Light looks to have the lead as they approach the final half mile.
It's nearly race time
They're just loading the last few horses in this 22-runner field into the stalls.
Marlborough's selection for the next race
Irish raider CREATE BELIEF clocked a smart time when winning a mile handicap at the Curragh on soft ground last month, and a 10lb rise in the weights may not stop her rise through the ranks.
Her sole blip came when not staying the distance on her only try at 1m 2f, but in three starts at a mile she has quickly built a very solid record indeed.
With the ground sure to suit her well, she can go very close. Glesga Gal impressed on her only start of the season at Wolverhampton; she has a sharp turn of foot that can stand her in excellent stead here; she too can go close.
The Sandringham Stakes Handicap
is the type of race free bets are made for - Take a look at these brilliant betting offers.
Ascot 4.20pm result
1. Alcohol Free (Oisin Murphy) 11-2
2. Snow Lantern (S M Levey) 14-1
3. Mother Earth (R L Moore) 9-2
Empress Josephine challenging, and there's a big move from Alcohol Free inside the furlong marker! It's Alcohol Free who takes the win under Oisin Murphy. That will feel especially sweet after the stewards took a win off him in the previous race.
And they're off in the Coronation Stakes!
Flirting Bridge and Pretty Gorgeous first to break, but Novemba nips past them to take an early lead. It's properly chucking it down at Ascot now.
Horse-by-horse guide to the 4.20pm Coronation Stakes
Alcohol Free: Winner of the Fred Darling Stakes, a race that has worked out particularly well. Ran with credit in the Guineas; rain a concern but holds each-way claims all the same.
Empress Josephine: Winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas on heavy ground. Dam won this race in 2010; whether her Guineas form is good enough remains to be seen, however.
Fev Rover: Plenty went against her in the Irish 1000 Guineas and, whilst she is entitled to run much better here, soft ground remains a concern.
Flirting Bridge: Possibly flattered by her proximity to the winner in the Group 3 Irish 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown. Ground should suit but looks outclassed in this company.
Lullaby Moon: Racing three wide with no cover unlikely to have helped her in the French 1000 Guineas.Questions over her stamina at a mile remain; others preferred.
Mother Earth: Consistent filly who followed up her victory in the 1000 Guineas by finishing runner-up in the French equivalent. Greatly respected in this company; must go close once again.
Novemba: German raider who romped home by seven-and-a-half lengths in the German 1000 Guineas last month. Well drawn in stall one to go forward, but this is a much tougher task altogether; place claims at best.
Potapova: Wide-margin winner of both of her starts in novice company, looking every inch a Group performer in the process. Thrown right in the deep end here but could surprise.
Pretty Gorgeous: Group 1-winning two-year-old who shaped like she would take a big step forward when seventh in the Irish 1000 Guineas on seasonal reappearance; can go very close.
Shale: Needed the run when fifth on seasonal reappearance back in April. Her absence since is a touch concerning and has work to do to figure, especially from her wide draw.
Snow Lantern: Raced too freely to give herself any chance last time out at York. The prospect of cover and a good gallop to chase can really help her today; big chance.
Verdict: SNOW LANTERN (NAP) has shaped like a potential Group 1 filly ever since she made a taking debut at this track last July and, having failed to settle last time out, today’s big field and likely stronger pace can give her every chance of settling enough to make an impact in the finish.
She has an action that suggests soft ground should be no issue and we should see a much different filly today to the one we saw at York. Pretty Gorgeous can take a big step forward from the Irish 1000 Guineas and chase her home, with the booking of Frankie Dettori more than catching the eye.
Stewards' inquiry result
The placings of the first two in the Commonwealth Cup are reversed.
The Group 1 Coronation Stakes (4.20pm) has a huge field
Ascot 3.40pm provisional result
(Pending stewards' inquiry)
1. Dragon Symbol (Oisin Murphy) 4-1
2. Campanelle (L Dettori) 5-1
3. Measure Of Magic (Ben Coen) 11-1
Stewards' inquiry klaxon!
Dragon Symbol and Campanelle bumped a few times in that back-and-forth slugfest inside the final furlong and the stewards want a look...
Here's Dragon Symbol's jockey Oisin Murphy: "He drifted slightly, but the best horse in the race came out on top at the line."
Dragon Symbol and Campanelle
Neck and neck inside the final furlong! These two are well clear of the field and it's a ding-dong battle towards the line...it looks like Dragon Symbol has won it by a nose.
And they're off in the Commonwealth Cup
Campanelle and A Case of You lead at the 2f mark.
The third race of the day
Is the Commonwealth Cup at 3.40pm. It's a Group 1 for three-year-old sprinters.
The top three in the betting at present are Suesa (5-2), Campanelle (9-2) and Dragon Symbol (11-2).
Here's how Alenquer won it
Ascot 3.05pm result
1. Alenquer (Tom Marquand) 13-8 Fav
2. Tasman Bay (David Probert) 10-1
3. Title (David Egan) 5-1
But it's the favourite
Alenquer who sweeps through the field and wins it! Tasman Bay battled valiantly but Alenquer travelled well and finished impressively there.
Belloccio still leads
As they turn for home, chased by Tasman Bay and Gear Up. Tasman Bay looking ominous!
They're off in the King Edward VII Stakes!
Belloccio missed the break out of the stalls but has cruised into the lead, with Tasman Bay settling into second place.
It's muddy work out there
This was mud-splattered jockey Gavin Ryan after our first race of the day. The second race is due off shortly.
It's the 3.05pm King Edward VII Stakes. Here's what our champion tipster Marlborough has to say:
ALENQUER has made giant strides up the ranks with every start and, on just his fourth career start, he can relish the step up to 1m 4f and take plenty of beating on his first try in Group 2 company.
He took the scalp of none other than this year’s Epsom Derby winner Adayar when the pair met on Alenquer’s only start this season in the Group 3 Sandown Classic Trial and, with the rain unlikely to cause too much of a hindrance, he is the one they all have to beat.
Title has shown Group-class potential in two starts this season and can give the selection the most to think about.
The favourite in the 3.05 beat Derby winner Adayar last time out
Ascot 2.30pm result
1. Sandrine (David Probert) 16-1
2. Hello You (James Doyle) 5-1
3. Oscula (Mark Crehan) 10-1
Sandrine wins it!
With Hello You in second and Oscula third. Sandrine won that one pretty nicely at 16-1.
And they're off in the Albany Stakes!
Hello You, Flotus and Gypsy Lady prominent early on.
They're loading the stalls
Just a couple of horses left to go in.
Our first race of the day is off at 2.30pm
The Albany Stakes is a Group 3 contest over 6f. Frankie Dettori's mount Flotus is the current market leader at 3-1.
'The horses will get through it - there's a bottom to the ground'
This is what a British Horseracing Authority spokesman said after Royal Ascot's racing today got the go-ahead.
"When they rebuilt Ascot they did all that drainage on the straight course and it's paying off. Ascot years ago might have struggled.
"The horses will get through it. There's a bottom to the ground. The horses will get through it. It should be safe."
Frankie Dettori's on board the favourite in the 2.30!
Marlborough's pick for the 2.30pm Albany Stakes
Rarely do you see a two-year-old make a winning debut by five lengths or more at Newmarket, but that is exactly what CACHET did on her only racecourse start, in the process adding her name to a very exclusive list of horses to have previously done exactly that.
In winning, Cachet clocked a smart time and, perhaps crucially, showed plenty of knee in her action, which bodes particularly well for soft ground; she can take the beating here. Hello You and Flotus created similarly deep impressions on debut, and are just two of many in with lively chances here.
'In my opinion it's fine'
Ralph Beckett was part of the delegation to inspect the track earlier.
Is officially soft, heavy in places. The groundstaff are moving rails about down at Swinley Bottom to ensure they won't be racing through the worst of the conditions.
Another day of elite racing at Royal Ascot beckons
I *think* this list is up-to-date.
3.40pm Diligent Harry, Method, Saint Lawrence, Supremacy, Miss Amulet, Sacred
4.20pm Oodnadatta, Primo Bacio
5pm Illykato, Mamba Wamba, Ready to Venture, Lucid Dreamer, Rising Star, Beheld, Riknnah, Companionship
5.35pm Pirate King, Tyson Fury, Grand Bazaar, Lost Eden
6.10pm Get It, Charlie Fellowes, Noorban
RACING GOES AHEAD!
Hurrah! More details to follow.
Not entirely sure
What to make of this. Fair play though, they're definitely making sure this inspection is as thorough as possible.
Still no news from the 12.45pm inspection
The waiting game continues.
No word from the official inspection yet but Frankie Dettori and Oisin Murphy have been out having a look at the course.
The torrential rain has already seen 16 horses withdrawn across the seven races scheduled for today.
Here's a soggy Mick Fitzgerald
Out on the track at Ascot. The inspection takes place in 10 minutes' time at 12.45pm. His view: "If it stops raining, we've got a chance...but it doesn't look like stopping."
And/or umbrellas are definitely the order of the day fashion-wise. This gentleman has the right idea.
Ascot's three contingency plans
Have just been published (including a 10-race card on Saturday as mentioned below).
Option 1: The fixture is given the go-ahead at 12.45pm and everything proceeds as initially planned.
Option 2: Racing goes ahead today on the straight course only, with the Coronation Stakes switched from the round course to make a five-race card. The Duke of Edinburgh and King Edward VII Stakes will be run tomorrow instead.
Option 3: Racing is called off completely today, with the three Group races - the Coronation, King Edward VII and Commonwealth Cup - shifted to tomorrow to make a 10-race card, kicking off at 1.20pm and continuing until 6.45pm.
Here's the proposed 10-race card
For tomorrow, courtesy of World Horse Racing director Geoffrey Riddle. That is a bumper day of high-class racing.
If racing is off
Today it would be the first time in 57 years there has been an abandonment at the Royal meeting.
Staff have been out on the course
Checking on the ground. It's still pretty wet with more showers forecast. If anyone knows a surefire anti-rain dance then now's the time to use it.
Officials discussing contingency plans
For some of today's races if it does get abandoned. Ideas include shifting three races to tomorrow to create a 10-race card, according to the Racing Post's Lee Mottershead.
As things stand
This afternoon's Royal Ascot fixture must pass a lunchtime inspection following torrential downpours overnight. Rain began falling before Thursday's card reached a conclusion and has barely stopped since.
A total of 26mm of rain had fallen at the Berkshire venue up to 11am this morning and it was still coming down - with more forecast throughout the course of the day.
The going is now officially soft, heavy in places, with clerk of the course Chris Stickels calling a 12.45pm inspection. PA
'The ability to race may be marginal'
It looks like it is very much touch-and-go whether racing goes ahead today...
And welcome to our live coverage of the fourth day of Royal Ascot 2021 (hopefully we see some racing!)
Unfortunately the predicted deluge over the course overnight arrived as forecast so the ground - which was good to firm on Thursday - is now officially soft, heavy in places. Clerk of the course Chris Stickels has called a 12.45pm inspection to assess the chances of racing going ahead.
A going update on the British Horseracing Authority administration site says: "Due to a few false patches of ground on which the ability to race may be marginal an inspection has been called for 12.45. We are also looking at options to realign the rail to avoid these areas."
If racing gets the green light, there are seven races on today's card, including two feature races - the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes:
2.30pm Albany Stakes
3.05pm King Edward VII Stakes
3.40pm Commonwealth Cup
4.20pm Coronation Stakes
5pm Sandringham Stakes
5.35pm Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes
6.10pm Palace Of Holyroodhouse Stakes
And here's a preview of day four from our racing correspondent Marcus Armytage...
German trainer Peter Schiergen does not bring his horses to Ascot for the bratwurst so it is, perhaps, time to expect Novemba in June in a fascinating Coronation Stakes.
Schiergen has not had a winner at Royal Ascot but he brought Danedream to win the King George in 2012 while Sumitas chased home Dubai Millenium in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes albeit at a respectful eight lengths.
Last time out Novemba won the German 1,000 Guineas doing handstands and beat a French trained Godolphin runner by seven-and-a-half lengths. That is only a Group Two but she clearly looks ready for the next step and unlike some rivals she appears to be blossoming at the right time.
“She was a very easy winner of her last race,” said Schiergen on Thursday. “She’s in top form. She is ready for the next test but this is an international Group One not a domestic Group Two. She has won on all grounds so I am not worried about the going.”
Sir Michael Stoute also fields an interesting runner in Potapova who has won both her starts, the last a novice race at Redcar by eight lengths. She appears long on class but possibly a bit short on experience. She is the other big unknown quantity. Of the known quantities Empress Josephine loved the heavy ground at The Curragh in the Irish 1,000 and the rain brings her into play.
Friday’s card was enlivened when the Commonwealth Cup, the Group One sprint restricted to three-year-olds, was added in 2015.
It has yet to be won by a French-trained runner but, despite there being more obstacles in the way of cross-Channel travel for horses than the Stayers Hurdle due to both Covid restrictions and Brexit, Suesa can make the journey from Francois Rohaut’s base in Pau pay off.
Neither Rohaut nor her regular rider Olivier Peslier can make the journey today but although the trainer has yet taste success at this meeting like Schiergen, the majority of his previous runners have been the in the money. However, Suesa looks top class and can break his duck – particularly as it looks like the weather for a few of them.
Soft ground holds no fears for Night of Thunder filly as she picked up her rivals and carried them in a Group Three at Chantilly last time, winning by three lengths without Peslier raising a sweat.
“All is well,” said Rohaut of the George Strawbridge-owned filly. “She is on her way, her preparation has been perfect and she is easy to prepare. She has won three times on the soft and once on good to firm so she doesn’t mind what the ground is.”
Last year’s Queen Mary winner Campanelle looks likely to be sent off favourite but Wesley Ward’s horses have not had their usual productive week and any rain is usually enough to blunt the Americans’ speed.