VALIXIR upset the odds-on Rakti in dramatic circumstances to take the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot at York yesterday.
The Aga Khan's four-year-old, ridden by Christophe Soumillon and trained in France by Andre Fabre, powered past the favourite at the two-furlong marker. Although Rakti tried to rally, Valixir (4-1) proved a length and a half too good. Starcraft was another half a length away in third.
Philip Robinson, Rakti's jockey, afterwards claimed an incident on the way down to the start - when a woman started making clicking noises with her tongue - may have cost his horse victory. "A woman, as we went out, just started clicking like mad and it just set him alight," he said. "You can't do that with a horse like this. It may have ruined his race, and he ran a remarkable race considering."
Rakti was a real handful going to post, careering almost out of control. But Robinson, performing a rodeo act to stay on board, did well to get him back on track and they were out in front before the end of the first furlong.
The 5-6 shot held a two-length lead going into the long straight, but Soumillon was cruising in behind on Valixir. He pressed on a quarter of a mile from home and try though Rakti might, Valixir was too strong. Australian import Starcraft, making his British debut for Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani, finished a close third.
Soumillon said: "I had a good draw and I knew that Rakti would go off in front and that he was the best horse to follow. I just kept my horse waiting, but Rakti did not go fast enough for me at the 400-metre mark, so I just let my horse go and he did it like a real champion today.
"He never had a real rush, but to beat Rakti - a true champion over a mile - like that he needed to be a true champion."
Rakti's trainer Michael Jarvis said: "He certainly wasn't as calm today as he was at Newbury and Philip did very well to stop him on the way down. He got him back within a furlong, but at this level you need all your energy."
Earlier in the afternoon Shamardal put up a superb performance as he ran away with the St James's Palace Stakes.
Kerrin McEvoy had the Godolphin colt out in front on leaving the stalls and wound up the pace in the home straight.
His rivals were unable to stay with him and the 7-4 favourite powered home to beat the fast-finishing Ad Valorem and Oratorio by three lengths and one and three-quarter lengths.
Shamardal only got the go-ahead to take his chance earlier in the afternoon when Godolphin withdrew Dubawi due to the fast ground.
His victory in the Group One race means the three-year-old is now unbeaten in all his six races on turf, having landed the French 2000 Guineas and French Derby this term.
Indesatchel appeared to be the main danger to Shamardal, having finished a head behind him in the French Guineas, but he boiled over in the preliminaries and finished well down the field. Last season's Middle Park winner Ad Valorem ran a blinder on his first try at a mile, coming from last to lead home a two-three for Aidan O'Brien, with Oratorio also running on from the rear.
McEvoy said: "It was amazing. I thought he'd run well but I didn't think he'd win like that - he really quickened up well and put it beyond doubt at the two. It's great to be associated with a horse like him."
Red Clubs, ridden by Michael Hills for his father Barry, made a slice of history when he became the first horse to win a Royal Ascot race away from Ascot. The 11-2 third favourite held off Pacific Pride to land the opening race, the Coventry Stakes.