Annually billed as the best race meeting the flat game has to offer, Royal Ascot rarely fails to live up to the hype. Even by its own lofty standards though, the 2019 edition was just a little bit special.
There were no shortage of highlights over the course of the five days; from Lord Glitters causing a shock in the opening Queen Anne, and all the way through to an emotional success for King Power Racing with Cleonte in Saturday’s closing Queen Alexandra Stakes. Here we take a look at the standout performers from Berkshire’s Betting Bonanza.
Blue Is The Colour
The first betting heat of the week was settled before the first race even got underway on the opening day, as punters waited in anticipation to see…. the colour of the Queen’s hat.
There had reportedly been a bit of money around for blue earlier in the day, and the gamble was duly landed. Repeating her blue millenary offering on Day 2, perhaps the Queen was on to something, as Blue was very much the word on everyone’s lips at this meeting, thanks to the exploits of a simply sensational sprinter.
Blue Point Simply Astounding
Godolphin’s Blue Point had already marked himself out as a speedball of the very highest order, with a win in last season’s King’s Stand Stakes, and headed into this year’s meeting on the back of a Group race hat-trick out in Meydan. It was a case of déjà vu in the King’s Stand Stakes as, just as in the race twelve months ago, Blue Point beat big rival Battaash into second to successfully defend his crown.
The son of Shamardal – who had an excellent week overall as a sire – wasn’t done with yet though, and having come out of the 5f dash in good order, was given the green light to go for the double in Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Sent off the warm 6/4 favourite for the meetings final Group 1, the mount of James Doyle cruised serenely clear approaching the final furlong, looking set to cruise to victory. Flying out of the pack though was the Sir Michael Stoute trained Dream Of Dreams. Punters held their breath, but the line came in time for Blue Point, who held on by a head to become only the third horse in history to land both of Ascot’s top sprints in the same season. A phenomenal achievement, and one which will no doubt make him a popular choice in his new career at stud
Frankie’s Fabulous Four
If Blue Point was the horse of the week, then there was no doubt about the star of the show from a human perspective. 23 years on from his bookmaker obliterating magnificent seven at this very track, the irrepressible Italian Frankie Dettori returned to the scene of the crime to send the layers running for cover once more on Day 3.
Dettori didn’t quite manage to go through the card as he did in 1996, but he did win the first four races, registering a 449/1 four timer to send many punters into clover. A’Ali in the Norfolk, Sangarius in the Hampton Court, Ribblesdale queen Star Catcher and the mighty Stradivarius in the Ascot Gold Cup were Dettori’s partners in crime, on a day which will live long in the memory.
With the first four winners in the bag and accumulators running on to alarming levels around the country, events for the compilers looked turning from disastrous to catastrophic in race 5. Dettori’s mount Turgenev had been around a 16/1 shot in the morning, but such was the weight of money on his shoulders that the John Gosden runner was sent off as the clear 7/2 favourite for the Britannia Stakes. And he really put the frighteners on the layers too, sweeping to the front inside the furlong to a deafening roar from the stands, only to then be reeled in by party-pooper Biometric.
With a total of 7 winners over the course of the week, it was Dettori who claimed the top rider title, for the first time since 2004. The training gong went to Aidan O’Brien who, despite a disappointment or two, still led the way with five wins.
Stradivarius Still The Stayer Supreme
The horse to round off that Dettori four-timer also merits a special mention. For many fans the real highlight of this meeting is the marathon event that is the Gold Cup; and for the best of the staying performers in training, this is the biggest event of the season – bar none.
Hot favourite heading into the 2019 renewal was the aforementioned Stradivarius. Something of a pocket rocket of a horse – particularly for a stayer – anything this one lacks in size, he more than makes up for in heart.
Heading into the contest on a six-race winning streak – including in this event last season – the son of Sea The Stars faced a couple of new challengers in the shape of 2018 Derby runner up Dee Ex Bee, and Melbourne Cup champ Cross Counter. Respectably as that duo ran, they went the same way as so many who have come before them, and were simply unable to match Stradivarius’s stamina and sheer will to win in the closing stages. A fine success for the John Gosden star, as he becomes the first runner since the mighty Yeats to land back to back Gold Cup’s.