THE BIG stage deserves the biggest players and that’s why Ryan Moore made Royal Ascot his personal playground this week, booting home a 37-1 treble yesterday to confirm his status as the “go to” jockey for the major races.
His genius in the saddle was shown at his best in the closing event of the meeting, the marathon Queen Alexandra Stakes which he won in expert fashion aboard Pique Sous, the heavily-backed 11-4 shot trained in Ireland by National Hunt legend Willie Mullins who is more closely associated with Cheltenham success than Ascot.
Moore somehow managed to calm down the fractious grey gelding after early upset, and turning into the straight he was in prime position to forge ahead and win comfortably. There was a sad postscript to the race, however, when favourite Tiger Cliff collapsed and died of a heart attack in front of the stands.
Moore’s partnership with trainer Sir Michael Stoute is one of the keys to his success, and after a lean time by his standards, the trainer came good to be leading handler at the Royal meeting.
So it was no surprise that, earlier in the afternoon, Moore rode a quickfire double for Stoute aboard Arab Spring in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes and Telescope in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.
In both races, Moore managed to get his mounts to the front just as the leaders turned into the Ascot straight and while Arab Spring could “only” win by two lengths, Telescope destroyed the Hardwicke field to win by seven lengths.
The treble on the day added to his three victories earlier in the week to land him the Qipco top jockey trophy for leading rider at the Royal meeting.
At 30, three-times champion jockey Moore has matured into a nonpareil big-race rider, with two Epsom Derbies, an Arc, Classics across Europe, a Japan Cup, a Hong Kong Cup and six Breeders’ Cup events on his slate already.
The Group 1 event of the day, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, confirmed that Irish trainer Ed Lynam is a real “power” in the world of sprinting as 7-2 favourite Slade Power, the mount of Wayne Lordan, held off the late challenge of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Due Diligence, one of Moore’s five seconds at the meeting.
Earlier in the week, Lynam was also on the mark with Sole Power in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes and with Anthem Alexander in the Queen Mary – three winners from four Royal Ascot runners is some success rate.
The bookmakers had been sending out press releases moaning about their losses before the Wokingham Handicap lived up to its reputation as their satchel-filler. A monumental gamble on Andrew Balding’s Absolutely So sent the four-year-old off the 4-1 favourite, only for the horse to break slowly and hate the fast ground – apprentice jockey Oisin Murphy could not get him balanced and accepted defeat a long way from home.
Up ahead the 9-1 shot Baccarat bolted clear inside the final furlong and, having finished fifth in the Ayr Gold Cup last year, he showed how much he has improved to land the big spring handicap.
Fahey said: “He’s a horse I always felt would win one of these races – I felt he would win the Ayr Gold Cup last year.”
The winner of the first race, the Listed Chesham Stakes, could not have been more impressive. Richard Pankhurst was always going well in the rear of a field led by American-trained Crown The Kitten until jockey William Buick asked the 10-1 shot to switch wide and quicken down the stands’ side.
The further they went, the bigger the distance between the winner and 4-1 shot Toscanini, Godolphin’s Irish-trained hope, who just pipped the 15-8 favourite Dick Whittington for second.
At the end Richard Pankhurst prevailed by nearly four lengths. Buick was notching his hat-trick at the meeting, and it lifted the trainer John Gosden, whose wife Rachel Hood bred and owns the winner, further clear at the top of the trainers’ championship.
Buick had consulted Scottish jockey Robert Havlin after the latter rode Richard Pankhurst in his first start at Newmarket. He said: “I spoke to Rab and he said he was very green first time out so that run has clearly done him the world of good. He’s done it very well and he was clearly the best horse in the race.”
The jockey wasn’t too bad himself, riding three winners in all at the Royal meeting, but the trophy went to Moore who right now is the classiest race jockey in Europe.