ASCOT, ENGLAND // Elzaam made a rousing charge at the end but settled for fourth in the Golden Jubilee Stakes yesterday as winner Society Rock went one better than last year in the feature sprint of the Royal Ascot week.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's three-year-old colt was considered a dark horse on account of his good course form but failed to catch his older rivals on the rain-sodden turf.
"I am really thrilled with how he ran," said Roger Varian, Elzaam's trainer. "I thought in the last two furlongs he made up more ground than anything and it shows he can do it at this level."
Last year, Society Rock finished second to Starspangledbanner in the Group 1 contest, a race which was considered the best running of the 1,200-metre race in the past decade.
In that race 12 months ago, the Ascot track ran as hard as a road, and many overlooked the second-placed runner saddled by James Fanshawe, the Newmarket trainer whose finest hour came when Frizzante won the July Cup in 2004.
Fanshawe, however, was convinced that Society Rock's breeding meant that the gelding would perform well on a soft Ascot track, and so it proved as the four year old went on to hold off the late thrust of Monsieur Chevalier by half a length.
"I'm absolutely thrilled with the horse because he was forgotten last year when he was second and then he was never really right afterwards," Fanshawe said.
"I've never raced him on this type of ground. It is obviously a concern until you race on it, but his mother is by Key Of Luck and they usually like a bit of cut."
Star Witness, who finished second to Prohibit in the King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday, was the first to make a bid for glory, under Steven Arnold.
The pair went for home 400m out but were swamped in the finish as a combination of Ascot's incline and the conditions scuppered the best-laid plans of the trainer Danny O'Brien. "He travelled like the winner beneath me going into the last 400m," Arnold said.
"Inside the last 100m, though, he just was bottomed out, he felt gassed and the last 50m was a real struggle.
"I think I'd attribute our defeat to the testing ground and in conditions like that you really need a horse that can get 1,400m.
"The horse ran really well and that's the game. You win some and you lose a lot."
Earlier in the day, Godolphin's Delegator was taken out of the race on account of the soft ground and will be saved for a run at the July Cup at Newmarket on July 9, where Star Witness and Elzaam will also be headed.
Society Rock may be there, too, but Pat Cosgrave, the winning jockey, suggested afterwards that Newmarket may not suit his partner.
Delegator's chances of winning a first Group 1 race were well advertised when he won the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes at York in May over 1,200m.
That race was on good going. By contrast, 26mm of rain had fallen on the Ascot track since Wednesday and Saeed bin Suroor saw fit to scratch him.
"The ground is just going to be too soft for him, so we have decided not to run," the Godolphin trainer said.
"Hopefully the weather stays dry for the next few weeks and he will run at Newmarket."
Await The Dawn could be aimed at the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November after his victory for Aidan O'Brien in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.
Await The Dawn easily accounted for long-time leader Harris Tweed and Drunken Sailor, both of whom will be aimed at the Melbourne Cup.
The four-year-old's sire, Giant's Causeway, famously went down by a head in a mighty tussle with Tiznow 11 years ago in Louisville, Kentucky and O'Brien is hopeful that Await The Dawn can win where his father did not.
"He has a lot of options but we always dreamt that he could be a Breeders' Cup Classic horse," said O'Brien.
"I would say there was no question that he won despite the ground. He is a daisy cutter in how he moves his legs across the ground."
There was a late success for the UAE when Fox Hunt led home a one-two-three for the region in the King George V Handicap. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's colours scored an inaugural success on Friday with Namibian and he followed up that victory yesterday with Saeed Suhail's Blissful Moment in second and Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa's Avveroes in third in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes.