ROYAL ASCOT 2023

FIRST DAY

Royal Ascot needs the expected as well as the unexpected and straightaway we got it. In the opening Queen Anne Stakes 33-1 shot Triple Time outgunned Inspiral in the first and two races later the remarkable Hollie Doyle continued her ground breaking way when becoming the first female jockey to win a Group One race at the meeting on 14-1 shot Bradsell.

It is a special tribute to her that a milestone is seen as a matter of course for a rider whose prowess has already scored seven times at this Group level, twice on this track just not at Royal Ascot. Group One success for her is definitely expected, for Bradsell it looked rather doubtful after his victory exactly in last year’s Coventry Stakes has been followed this season by two rather disappointing run over the same six furlongs.

Indeed he could be backed at 40-1 on Monday but his 14-1 starting price suggests that quite a few people took the hint that the £35,000 supplementary fee to contest this five furlong championship had not been taken at a total whim and of course he had Hollie on board. She certainly earned her fee as well as a 4 day suspension as she pushed and drove, threaded and re-threaded her reins to compel Bradsell onwards as the admirable Highfield Princess hunted him down. In his response Bradsell lugged across into his rival’s ground and if he might have won anyway the finish would have been a lot closer.

If some in the Bradsell camp predicted this upset Triple Time’s triumph was also not exactly unexpected by those closest to the massive Triple Time despite his absence from the track since floundering on the soft Longchamp turf back in October. Trainer Kevin Ryan was talking him up before a stress fracture put him out of last year’s 2,000 Guineas, was saying he was “a very special talent” when he won on return five months later and was then very hopeful before this year’s Lockinge only for Triple Time to be withdrawn with stomach cramp.

Confidence was not confined to the trainer. “When I saw him in the paddock I thought phwoar, he’s primed for today,” said jockey Neil Callan. “The one thing Kevin has always said is that this is the best horse he’s ever trained – the best! It’s a big call to make because Kevin has had a lot of good horses, but he believed in this horse. Umar Muhammad who rides him out every day, said to me in the chute before we went out, ‘he’s in great shape, just jump and let him roll’”

Early on these tactics looked somewhat questionable as the massively powerful Triple Time pulled and plunged with Callan and then towed him up to the front of the pack. Meanwhile Dettori had been creeping up on the far side and drew a huge cheer from the crowd as he closed and then headed the leader. But Callan and Triple Time were far from done, legs clamped tight to his massive partner in the acey-deaucey, (right boot deeper than the left) style he perfected during his highly lucrative 280 winner, 7 year stint in Hong `Kong, the 44 year old Irishman galvanized his massive partner to hold off Dettori and Inspiral by a decisive neck.

It was a 9th Royal Ascot for his astute Yorkshire trainer Kevin Ryan, 6th for owner breeder Sheikh Mohammed Obaid whose black spotted yellow silks later took the Wolferton Stakes with Dettori back in fifth on the royal hope Saga. For Callan this was also a sixth winner but rather more than that. Riding his first winner over here in 1998, he grafted his way towards the top of the tree, put 170 successes on the scoreboard in 2007 and now lean, hard and unafraid this was very much a reminder that he was open for business.

Aidan O’Brien has never gone away. Yesterday saw his remarkable Royal Ascot training tally rrise to 83 with fine performances from River Tiber in the Coventry and Paddington in the St James’s Palace, both ridden by Ryan Moore who was to close out the day with a runaway success on star hurdler Vauban.

As the current leading O’Brien two year old, River Tiber was predictably made favourite for next year’s 2,000 Guineas. A whole lots of water has got to flow before we reach that particular part of the river but at the moment there is a lot to like about the way this, big, handsome son of Wooton Bassett sets about his races.

The same very much applies to Paddington who has already won the Irish 1,000 Guineas and in putting almost four length between himself and the English 2,000 winner Chaldean at the line, placed himself firmly at the top of his generation of milers. He is a colt who has taken his time, he started his season winning a heavy ground handicap at Naas, but he is improving, is in a master’s hand and there is clearly much to look forward to.

Mind you in the Ascot Stakes we got a horse not only expected but expecting. The 8 year old mare Ahorsewithnoname landed a well backed training triumph for the Nicky Henderson yard eight weeks after winning over hurdles at Cheltenham and six from a tryst with top stallion Cracksman for whom she is now in foal. With racehorses the radiance of the new mother-to-be is something to bet on.

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