x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

By George, she’s got it – Taghrooda stars for Sheikh Hamdan in King George Stakes at Ascot

UAE horse beats stellar field at Ascot with Mukhadram, who also sported the stable’s blue-and-white silks under jockey Dane O’Neill, third.

Paul Hanagan riding Taghrooda, right, win The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Getty Images
Paul Hanagan riding Taghrooda, right, win The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Getty Images

Ascot, England// Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s decision to run Taghrooda in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes paid off spectacularly when she ran away with the British mid-summer highlight on Saturday.

Taghrooda built on her victory last month in the English Oaks with a power-packed run to deny Royal Ascot winner Telescope by three lengths.

Another Group 1 one-two narrowly evaded Sheikh Hamdan when Mukhadram, who also sported the stable’s blue-and-white silks under jockey Dane O’Neill, was only a short head behind.

Much like at Epsom, when Paul Hanagan rode in the Oaks for the first time, it was the 33-year-old jockey’s first ride in the Group 1 event and he was ecstatic that he had chosen the filly Taghrooda, and not Mukhadram, the horse he had ridden in all his starts before yesterday.

“I had to make a tough decision and Mukhadram ran very well and I’m very proud of him,” Hanagan said. “It was such a buzz and something you would think would never happen.”

Taghrooda’s win marked the first time that a three-year-old filly defeated the older colts in the 2,400-metre contest in 38 years. Whatever happens next, Taghrooda will retire at the end of the season as a special filly, indeed.

Taghrooda has perhaps only two more runs remaining, with the Yorkshire Oaks next month at York Racecourse the likely next port of call before a possible attempt to land a first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris in October.

Given the bold decision to run here, the sop of victory in France will surely help sway Sheikh Hamdan’s thoughts away from the Champion Stakes, which he won twice before with Haafhd and Nayef.

Should Taghrooda cross the Channel, she could do battle with the impressive German Derby winner, Sea The Moon.

It was Taghrooda’s fourth consecutive victory and ever since she won her maiden at Newmarket in September, the Shadwell homebred has seemed destined to be one of the flag-bearers for Sheikh Hamdan.

“She’s never taken a backward step since that race,” said Angus Gold, Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager. “She is blessed with this extraordinary temperament, which is unusual for a filly of this age.

“She went down to the start on a long rein and went straight into the gates.

“We’ve had a few quiet seasons, and the same amount of effort goes into the good years and the bad years. With a Shadwell filly, it was particularly satisfying.”

The best racehorses can operate under any circumstances and the win highlighted that Taghrooda can be ridden in many different ways. At Epsom she was ridden up with the pace, whereas Hanagan had to hold up his mount because of the initial early pace set by Leitir Mor.

O’Neill took hold of the race by effectively setting the pace behind Leitir Mor, who was little more than an outsider, and he went for the lead on the bend as Telescope made headway under Ryan Moore.

Mukhadram led into the straight and Moore ranged up alongside with 400 metres to go as Hanagan let Taghrooda go for home.

In 200 metres, Taghrooda blew past the two colts and into history.

“She’s right up there and would be the best filly I’ve had over a mile and a half,” trainer John Gosden said.

“If she is in good order, then the Yorkshire Oaks would seem a good place to go, and then it is up to the boss. The Arc would make a lot of sense.”

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