It was the same story in Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes as had developed in the 1,000 Guineas, with Sky Lantern proving herself to be unquestionably the finest female miler of her generation.
With jockey Richard Hughes and trainer Richard Hannon feeling slightly aggrieved that the tall grey had not been duly credited for her Newmarket victory, when she came with a late finish to wear down Just The Judge, this time the same rival was dispatched by more than four lengths. Just The Judge, who earned Guineas honours of her own in Ireland, found herself banished to the outside of the field from her rotten draw in 17 of 17, but Sky Lantern (9-2 joint-favourite) had broken from just one gate further in and followed her tail around the home bend before leaving her toiling entering the final furlong.
Just as this same three-year-old had presented the champion jockey with his first British Classic 47 days earlier, this was the duck broken for a meeting where he and Hannon always invest enormous hopes. Surprisingly, they raised the possibility of stepping the daughter of Red Clubs up to a mile and a half for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which is a race with which connections have no association. Hannon was worn out by three days at Ascot and left his son and assistant, Richard jnr, to deal with proceedings. He said: “Royal Ascot is very important to us and we’ve had a frustrating week but that has made everything worthwhile.
“It was tough to see Toronado finish second behind Dawn Approach earlier in the week (St James’s Palace Stakes) but we always knew she was a special filly and I’m glad she has been able to show it. Some people had said she was a little bit lucky in the Guineas and that the others went too soon but she has put that to bed there.”
Just 24 hours after winning the Ascot Gold Cup with the Queen’s Estimate, Sir Michael Stoute unearthed a viable contender for the St Leger after Hillstar took the King Edward VII Stakes.
Known as the ‘Ascot Derby’, the race has become a graveyard for colts who had previously contested the Epsom Classic. And so it proved once more with Aidan O’Brien’s red-hot favourite Battle Of Marengo, fourth in the Derby but beaten a length into second here. The 10-11 market leader appeared to have the race at his mercy when Joseph O’Brien took the race by the scruff of the neck three furlongs out and, approaching the final 200 yards, he still held an advantage.
However, just like at Epsom his stride began to shorten and Ryan Moore made relentless progress on 15-2 chance Hillstar, beaten in a handicap last time out. Roger Varian’s inexperienced Mutashaded was third, another two and a quarter lengths back.
Disclaimer could not provide Warren House stables with a poignant winner of the Queen’s Vase, this year named in honour of the late Sir Henry Cecil, as Leading Light justified 5-4 favouritism. For most of the race Tom Queally appeared to have everything covered aboard the Lady Cecil-trained three-year-old and travelled smoothly into the lead turning into the straight. However, Disclaimer’s stamina gave way after he was very keen early on.
The O’Brien-trained 5-4 favourite found plenty, though, and won by a length and a half. Leading Light’s victory equalled the record number of Irish winners (eight) at Royal Ascot. Paying his own tribute to Cecil, O’Brien said: “He was the most incredibly special man.”
Today is the conclusion of the 2013 meeting and Society Rock is fancied to regain his Diamond Jubilee crown. Society Rock arrives here on the back of a hard-fought victory in the Duke of York Stakes and has proved himself capable on a range of surfaces. Universal can extend his winning streak to four with victory in the Hardwicke Stakes. The four-year-old was rated only 79 last August but a good run of results saw him start the current campaign on 101.
After winning off that mark in April, trainer Mark Johnston raised his sights to Group 3 company in the John Porter and he duly outbattled Quiz Mistress to gain a narrow verdict. Universal then upped another level to win an admittedly weak Group Two at Newmarket last time. He will have to improve again but is firmly on an upward curve and would not have to find too much more.