x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Horse racing: A right royal reception for Estimate

It was Ladies Day in more ways than one at Royal Ascot

Britain's Queen Elizabeth, left, with her horse Estimate.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth, left, with her horse Estimate.

Ascot, England // The third day of the royal meeting is often called Ladies' Day, and after the Dubai World Cup-winning rider Joel Rosario had broken the track record in the Norfolk Stakes yesterday on the American raider No Nay Never the central roles to this emotional day's racing were played by women.

Firstly, Lady Cecil helped honour the memory of Sir Henry Cecil, her husband who died last week, by sending out Riposte and Tom Queally to take the Ribblesdale Stakes.

Then, 50 minutes later, the spectators in the packed grandstands were moved from a sense of poignancy and respect to jubilation as Estimate was led into the winner's enclosure having handed her owner, Queen Elizabeth, her 22nd success at Royal Ascot with victory in the Gold Cup.

The images relayed around the giant racecourse television screens of the beaming monarch in the royal box will live long in the memory of the 61,954 in the crowd. The queen was sat beside John Warren, her racing manager, who had vigorously shouted the filly home.

Never in the 206-year history of the punishing Group 1 contest had a reigning monarch owned the winner of the two-and-a-half-mile race. Under the urgings of Ryan Moore, though, Estimate proved superior to the 13 male horses that lined up against her.

With Godolphin's Colour Vision challenging on her outside, under Silvestre de Sousa, and the Irish and French raiders Simenon and Top Trip snapping on her inside, the final furlong resembled a wolf pack chasing a gazelle.

Estimate is not flimsy in body or spirit, however, and she stuck on gamely to deny Simenon, who will now be aimed at the Melbourne Cup, by a neck. Top Trip was third under Mickael Barzalona.

"To do it for the queen is fantastic," Moore said. "To win the Gold Cup in her colours is exceptional. Estimate was always holding the others when they came to her."

Sir Michael Stoute, the trainer, was equally delighted, having not won the Gold Cup since saddling Shangamuzo in 1978.

"It's a special thrill to win this race for the queen," he said. "It will have given her enormous pleasure. She really loves the game. Estimate's preparation had gone well but she had to up her game to beat the boys."

Estimate won the Queen's Vase at this meeting 12 months ago, and was the first horse to step up to take the Gold Cup a season later since Le Moss performed the feat for Sir Henry Cecil in 1979.

Royal Ascot was Cecil's stomping ground, from saddling a record 75 winners to providing a platform for his rakish fashion sense. "He was so looking forward to Royal Ascot with a good team of horses," Lady Cecil said.

"I don't really have the words to say what I am feeling right now. I think people will probably have a good idea. Henry was just adored by so many people. People who had never met him just loved him. Keeping busy is what is keeping us all going; if we had nothing to do, then I think we would all fall to bits."