Royal Ascot 2024: Donnacha O’Brien eclipses father Aidan for a Coronation

<span>Porta Fortuna scoots home in the Coronation Stakes.</span><span>Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Porta Fortuna scoots home in the Coronation Stakes.Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

For the third day running, Aidan O’Brien was posing for the photographers in the winner’s enclosure after the big race here on Friday. In a break with the normal routine, however, he had been summoned from the runner-up’s spot to shake the hand of the winning trainer: his 25-year-old son, Donnacha, whose filly Porta Fortuna had just run straight past O’Brien Snr’s Opera Singer in the closing stages of the Group One Coronation Stakes.

Porta Fortuna was Donnacha O’Brien’s first Group One at Royal Ascot and only his second success at the meeting after the same filly’s victory in the Albany Stakes on this card last year, but it was far from being a surprise. She set off as the 7-2 third-favourite, having finished just a head behind the winner in the 1,000 Guineas last month.

Related: Royal Ascot day four: Porta Fortuna wins Coronation Stakes – live

It will be truly remarkable, though, if plenty more top-class winners at this meeting do not follow her onto the roll of honour in the years to come. Like Joseph, his older brother, Donnacha O’Brien started to rack up Group One winners pretty much before the ink on his licence was dry and it goes without saying that time is on his side.

“Porta Fortuna is so uncomplicated,” O’Brien said. “Tom [Marquand] gave her a lovely ride. I was happy the whole way and everything went to plan and it’s not too often you can say that.

“All along, she hasn’t got the credit she deserves. She had two runs before Royal Ascot last year and has literally never missed a race since.

“Races like the Falmouth [Stakes at Newmarket next month] might be the plan and the owners are an American group so I’d say an end-of-year plan would be the Breeders’ Cup [at Del Mar].”

The only disappointment on the day for the O’Brien clan was that Joseph, a dual Derby winner aboard horses trained by his father during his relatively brief riding career, could not complete a family treble with one of his three runners on the card.

O’Brien pere was off the mark in the opening race, though it required a fine ride by Ryan Moore and an even better turn of foot from Fairy Godmother to pluck the win in the Albany Stakes from the gaping jaws of defeat.

At least two openings slammed shut in Moore’s face as he tried to pick a path through the middle of the pack, but he still had just enough track left to work with as he tacked out and around the main body of runners, before quickening past Simmering well inside the final furlong for a three-quarter length success.

“I gave her an impossible task and she got me out of a hole,” was Moore’s unduly modest assessment afterwards. “It’s incredible that she was able to win from that position, so all credit to her.

“Down at the start, she looked different class. She suggested that before she ran [for the first time], and when she won last time. Today, that was a big performance.”

It was inevitable that Fairy Godmother would be installed as a clear favourite for next year’s 1,000 Guineas after this performance, and while a top price of around 9-2 is on the thin side, she will surely start favourite for a Group One next time up.

The decision to supplement Inisherin for the Commonwealth Cup, the first Group One event on the card, proved to have been doubly inspired when Elite Status, who was due to line up in the same yellow colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum, was scratched from the race after knocking a joint on Friday morning.

In his absence, Inisherin shrugged off a tricky draw in stall one and opened a decisive lead with a sustained burst of speed just inside the final quarter-mile before staying on to beat Lake Forest, last year’s Gimcrack winner, by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

“I think he is just going to get quicker and better at this job,” Kevin Ryan, the winner’s trainer, said. “He’s a joy to train, an absolute legend [and] it was a very easy watch.”

Inisherin is now likely to head to the July Cup at Newmarket next month, and he is priced up at around 3-1 to emulate Shaquille, last year’s Commonwealth Cup winner, by following up in sprinting’s midsummer championship event.

The French challenge at this year’s royal meeting looked stronger than it had for several years on Tuesday morning, but it was not until the 27th race of the meeting that France finally joined Britain, Ireland and Australia with a winner, as Francis-Henri Graffard’s Calandagan powered clear in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes.

It was a deeply impressive performance by Stephane Pasquier’s mount, who showed an abrupt turn of foot to put daylight between himself and the rest of the field in a matter of strides. As a gelding, though, his future options are not as extensive as would otherwise have been the case, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – a race that his owner, the Aga Khan, covets above all others – is definitely off the agenda.

“I’m just disappointed that he’s lost his balls,” Pasquier told a post-race interviewer shortly afterwards. “He’s not a man any more.”

Mitbaahy can deliver in the Jubilee

Jamie Spencer delivered a crushing blow to backers in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes 12 months ago as he steered Khaadem, an 80-1 shot, to an unexpected success, but he could well make amends in the latest renewal when Mitbaahy, a stable-companion of Khaadem, will go to post with a leading chance in the Group One feature on the final day of Royal Ascot.

Like the shock winner last year, Mitbaahy (3.45) is a hold-up horse who is a perfect fit for Spencer’s famously patient style, and he has made rapid strides since joining Charlie Hills’s stable over the winter. Two good runs at five furlongs were followed by a convincing success when he stepped up to six in the Greenland Stakes at the Curragh last month.

A draw in stall one is not ideal given how the sprints have been developing this week, but Khaadem was in stall two last year and Spencer will in any case be looking to drop in behind and then come with a strong late run as the leaders begin to tire.

Royal Ascot 2.30 Several of Charlie Appleby’s runners this week have been disappointing but overall his string remains in excellent form – a 29pc strike-rate in June, and 31pc so far in 2024 – and Age Of Gold has little to find on his debut form at Yarmouth last month in order to go close here.

Royal Ascot 3.05 Much of the focus will be on the royal runner, Desert Hero, but Continuous ran a fine race behind Ace Impact in the Prix l’Arc de Triomphe after his success in the St Leger at Doncaster last autumn and will be very tough to beat if he is anywhere close to that level on his seasonal debut here.

Royal Ascot 4.25 Lightly-raced Task Force was not quite up to Classic company behind Notable Speech in the 2,000 Guineas but this drop in trip and class could be just what he needs to pick up the winning thread.


1.35 Mumayaz

2.10 Invited

2.45 Boadicia

3.20 Skipper

4.00 Many A Star

4.35 Jungle Mac

5.15 Expressionless



1.45 Rogue Endeavour

2.20 Airspeed

2.55 Young Fire

3.30 Amazing Winnie

4.15 Tatterstall

4.55 Kings Merchant

5.30 Sam Sarphati



Royal Ascot

2.30 Age Of Gold

3.05 Continuous

3.45 Mitbaahy (nb)

4.25 Task Force

5.05 Albasheer (nap)

5.40 Primo Lara

6.15 Queenstown



4.10 Big Cyril

4.45 Moon Flight

5.25 Eminent Jewel

5.55 Baileys Khelstar

6.25 Beautiful Diamond

6.55 B Associates

7.25 Lord Abama

7.55 Coconut Bay


Lingfield Park

6.00 Morcar

6.30 Major Major

7.00 Three Dons

7.30 Glamis Road

8.00 Sense Of Spirit

8.30 Forgotten Treasure

9.00 Lilkian


Haydock Park

6.05 My Dream World

6.40 Dolly Gray

7.10 Intrusively

7.45 Dora Milaje

8.15 Blue Collar

8.45 Hat Toss


Royal Ascot 5.05 Hollie Doyle will need a little luck in the closing stages aboard Albasheer but he is an ideal candidate for this contest in every other respect and looks dangerously well-handicapped back on turf based on his emphatic and strongly-run success on the all-weather at Newcastle in March.

Royal Ascot 5.40 A high draw could make life difficult for William Buick on the likely favourite, Hand Of God, and the progressive Primo Lara makes more appeal at the likely odds to complete a hat-trick.

Royal Ascot 6.15 The longest race of the meeting brings proceedings to a traditional close, and the wide range of ability on show is something of a tradition too. Queenstown, second in a Group Three last time and Aidan O’Brien’s only runner, is possibly the way to go.