x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ascot is happy hunting ground

The Queen's meeting at Royal Ascot provided rich pickings for UAE-owned horses.

ASCOT // The Queen's meeting provided rich pickings for UAE-owned horses as Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, notched up four winners including the excellent 1,000 Guineas winner Ghanaati in the Group One Coronation Stakes. Ouqba in the Jersey Stakes, Fareer in the Britannia Stakes and Habaayib in the Albany Stakes also fired for Sheikh Hamdan during the five-days of racing at Royal Ascot and the Shadwell Stud owner claimed third in the opening day's Queen Anne Stakes with Aqlaam.

Meanwhile, Godolphin had a winner in the Ribblesdale Stakes fillies race with Flying Cloud and also claimed with third placed Tawaab in the Norfolk Stakes, Ashram in the Jersey Stakes and second-placed Moonquake in the Wolferton Stakes. Mastery was third in the Queen's Vase and Godolphin racing manager, Simon Crisford, is now considering him for the St Ledger. On the final day the Godolphin operation saddled the favourite Campanologist in the Hardwicke Stakes, who was beaten by just half-a-length by the John Gosden-trained Bronze Cannon.

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor had hoped the son of Kingmambo would have been able to hold on after he flew into the lead one-and-a-half furlongs out under Frankie Dettori. "I thought for a second he was going to win," he said. "I was confident coming into the race. He was working really well and was sound and healthy. I think they went too fast too early and that didn't suit him but the winner is a very good horse."

Asset, carrying top weight in a field of 26, was another horse that Godolphin had high hopes for. He was just beaten by the favourite, High Standing. Crisford said: "He's run a fantastic race and put up a big effort. He just found one too good on the day. He was drawn on the far side and had to stay there but to have run that well under such a big weight is marvellous. He was giving 12lb to the winner but that's what handicaps are for."

But tragedy struck the Godolphin camp in the marathon Ascot Gold Cup. Known as the toughest test of stamina in flat racing, the Godolphin stayer, Veracity, after proving his spirit in the two mile four furlong contest, was pulled up lame by Dettori. He was later humanely put down after suffering a fractured cannon bone. Yeats, trained by two-time Royal Ascot champion trainer, Aidan O'Brien, provided fans with a more positive story when he won the Gold Cup for the fourth consecutive time. Big race rider, Johnny Murtagh, was crowned champion jockey with four wins, the same number as Richard Hughes but he edged the trophy by claiming a second place while trainer Barry Hills, who won three, edged out Richard Hannon also with a runner-up finish.

Murtagh, who rode in Dubai last season for Mike de Kock, also won the award last year with six winning rides. It is the first time that Hills, who trains horses for Sheikh Hamdan, has won the trainers' championship and in doing so wrested it from the stranglehold that Ireland's super-trainer O'Brien and Sir Michael Stoute have held. Hills, who has battled throat cancer for a year, had been in hospital for five weeks with blood poisoning prior to the meeting and was sent home on the day Ghanaati won the Coronation Stakes, delaying his departure long enough to watch his charge cross the line with his son Richard in the irons.

Royal Ascot was this year attended by a record crowd at a time when the industry had been concerned about a down-turn in numbers. Official figures pegged the final day crowd at 78,790, up 11 per cent on last year. stregoning@thenational.ae