Royal Ascot in 2020 took place under unprecedented conditions, with the Covid-19 epidemic meaning the five-day spectacular was held behind closed doors for the first time in its history, but it once again produced some stunning performances and magical moments.
The meeting got underway on Tuesday, when the stars on show included the Aidan O’Brien trained Circus Maximus who recorded a second Royal Ascot Group 1 victory in the Queen Anne Stakes under a power packed ride from Ryan Moore having triumphed in the St James’s Palace Stakes the previous year.
In the other Group 1 on the card, the Hamdan Al Maktoum owned Battaash made it third time lucky in the King’s Stand Stakes when showing awesome speed and gears to romp to an easy 2 1/4 length success over Equilateral.
The first two home were both trained by Charlie Hills and Battaash is now a top priced 8/11 with William Hill for the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday, August 21.
Hills said: “He was really on his ‘A’ game today. He was beautifully relaxed before the race and as soon as the gates opened you could see he was going to be very hard to beat.
“He has been quite relaxed in his work at home, until Saturday when Jane rode him and he was really quite strong in the first half of the gallop. I think he’d got to the point really when we needed to get a race into him. The race will do him the world of good, we can train him off today.
“Obviously we will have to speak with Sheikh Hamdan, but I am really looking forward to going back to Goodwood to try and win the King George there for the fourth time..”
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Lord North and Stardivarius ultra-impressive
On Wednesday, Lord North was the headline act when recording a devastating victory in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes for trainer John Gosden and jockey James Doyle.
The four-year-old took the step up to the highest level in his stride having landed the Cambridgeshire handicap at Newmarket in October beire following up with Listed and Group 3 wins.
Lord North showed an electric turn of foot to come from off the pace and beat Addeybb by 3 3/4 lengths. Paddy Power immediately cut him to 4/1 for the Group 1 Coral Eclipse over 1m 2f at Sandown on Sunday July 5 where he could clash with stable companion Enable – the current 5/4 favourite with Unibet.
The Queen was forced to miss the Royal meeting for the first time in her 68-year reign but there was still very much a Royal presence on Wednesday as Her Majesty’s homebred juvenile Tactical justified 7/2 favouritism in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes.
On Thursday, Stradivarius arguably produced the performance of the week when streaking clear to land the Group 1 Gold Cup by 10 lengths.
The John Gosden trained and Bjorn Nielsen’s homebred, who was ridden by regular pilot Frankie Dettori, was taking the staying showpiece for the third year in succession.
Stradivarius joins Sagaro (1975, 1976 and 1977) as a triple Gold Cup victor, just one win behind the mighty Yeats (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009).
Nando Parrado causes biggest shock in Royal Ascot history
Trainer Clive Cox and jockey Adam Kirby had enjoyed Group 1 sprint success in the past with the likes of Profitable and Lethal Force.
The duo were on the mark again on Friday when Golden Horde, a son of Lethal Force, was the impressive winner of the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup.
Cox and Kirby also recorded a memorable success on day five when 150/1 chance Nando Parrado caused the biggest shock of the modern era at Royal Ascot in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes.
The bumper eight-race card on Saturday included a Group 1 triple-header of the St James’s Palace Stakes, Coronation Stakes and Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Dettori, known as Mr Ascot, took the Coronation Stakes in impressive fashion aboard the Jessica Harrington trained Alpine Star who emulated the success of her half-sister Alpha Centauri in the same race two years’ ago.
The popular Italian also landed the St James’s Palace Stakes on the lightly-raced Palace Pier, who was another winner for John Gosden, when getting the better of last season’s leading juvenile Pinatubo in a thrilling renewal.
Dettori’s Coronation Stakes success means he has remarkably now won every Group 1 race staged at Royal Ascot at least once.
It was actually a treble on Dettori on day five as he also landed the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes on Campanelle. Campanelle was the 11th winner at Royal Ascot for US-based trainer Wesley Ward.
Gosden crowned Leading Trainer for second time
In contrast, Kevin Stott enjoyed his first ever Ascot winner when Hello Youmzain landed the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. He then doubled up in the next race, the Wokingham Heritage Handicap, on Hey Jonesy by a nose from the fast finishing Summerghand. Both horses were trained by Kevin Ryan.
Dettori ended the week as Leading Jockey with six wins, just edging out Ascot-born Jim Crowley on countback of placed horses. It was the seventh time Dettori has topped the standings.
John Gosden took the honours for Leading Trainer with six wins. It was the second time the Newmarket-based maestro had topped the standings at Royal Ascot having been leading trainer in 2012.
The award for leading owner went to Hamdan Al Maktoum who saw his famous blue and white colours carried to victory on six occasions.
Although no crowds could attend, the public really got behind the meeting due to coverage on Sky Racing and ITV Racing – with the latter reporting the highest Royal Ascot viewing figures for eight years.