Sir Michael Stoute registered his 76th Royal Ascot win on Wednesday when POET’S WORD captured the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-G1) under jockey James Doyle. In the process, the veteran horseman became the winningest trainer at Royal Ascot by finally breaking a 75-win tie with the late Sir Henry Cecil.
“It is relief because we were stuck on 75 last year,” Stoute said. “As I said the other night, Henry (Cecil) did most of his training when (Royal Ascot) was a four-day meeting, so I have had an advantage. Nobody respected him greater than I did as a trainer.
“I think Royal Ascot is very special to any trainer. We have been very lucky in that we have brought a lot of nice horses here over the years. We’re very glad it’s happened and it’s great for all the staff.”
“Sir Michael is a master trainer, isn’t he?” Doyle commented. “With horses like this he is just very patient with them. It is nice to ride him a big winner and particularly a landmark winner like this. I rode a fair bit for him when I was with Juddmonte and learnt a fair bit from him.”
Stoute saddled his first Royal Ascot winner in 1977 with Etienne Gerard in the Jersey Stakes. On Wednesday, he sent out Poet’s Word to defeat 2-5 favorite Cracksman by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 2:03.51 for 1 1/4 miles over the good-to-firm turf.
“I was delighted for Poet’s Word. He’s been in at the deep-end in Group 1s and has been running well in them, so it’s great for him to win one,” Stoute said. “Poet’s Word is a very consistent, brave, sound horse. That’s what he is. A huge well done to all the staff because they have put a lot of work into a horse like this.”
The Prince of Wales’s is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series and awarded Poet’s Word, who is owned by Saeed Suhail, an all-expenses paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs on November 3.
“We’ll take our time with him before deciding on future plans, but he could go for the Coral-Eclipse ([Eng-G1] at Sandown Park on July 7) or the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes ([Eng-G1] at Ascot on July 28),” Stoute said of the five-year-old son by Poet’s Voice.
“There are a lot of options with him, as I think he is equally effective over 10 and 12 furlongs and there are not many that are. Anybody would love training this horse as he is so sound and honest. We couldn’t be too confident coming into today because of the way in which Cracksman beat him by seven lengths in the Champions Stakes ([Eng-G1] last October), so we just came here with hope which is often a good way to come into these events.”
Stoute wasn’t done for the day, though. The trainer went on to saddle the final winner on Day 2 of Royal Ascot and extend his record to 77 triumphs with Khalid Abdullah’s EXPERT EYE in the Jersey Stakes (G3).
“This horse was such a good two-year-old and then things went wrong in the Dewhurst ([Eng-G1] when last of nine last October),” Stoute said. “I am just so thrilled to see him back in this sort of form. A lot of work has gone into this horse, by James Savage, my head man, who rides him out every morning, in particular, and a lot of stalls work has been done with Gary Witheford and his son.”
The Acclamation sophomore not only gave Stoute a 77th victory but also New Zealand-born jockey James McDonald a first success at Royal Ascot. The duo crossed under the wire 4 1/2 lengths in front of Society Power to stop the clock in 1:26.25 for seven furlongs.
“I can’t put it into words how much this means,” McDonald said. “This is what it is all about. I never thought 18 months ago that I would be at Royal Ascot. It is an absolute pleasure and I have a lot of people to thank for that.”
Someone else who celebrated a first Royal Ascot win on Wednesday was Newmarket trainer Marco Botti, who scored with ALJAZZI in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Eng-G2).
“We have been so close here so many times with horses like Dandino, Excelebration and Euro Charline, and it is just nice to finally get one on the board,” Botti said. “I am really delighted, and I have to thank the owners for keeping Aljazzi in training.”
Ridden by William Buick, Aljazzi romped by 3 3/4 lengths over Tribute Act, who in turn had a neck to spare on Wilamina. The Shamardal five-year-old mare, who is campaigned by breeders Imad Al Sagar and Saleh Al Homaizi, ran a mile in 1:40.53.
“There is a month until the Falmouth Stakes ([Eng-G1] run at Newmarket’s July Course) and I would think that will fit in very well,” Botti added. “This is why we wake up in the morning, we all want to have winners here. It is job done and I am really pleased for everybody.”
Trainer Aidan O’Brien logged the trifecta in the Queen’s Vase Stakes (Eng-G2) earlier on the day with KEW GARDENS scoring by 4 1/2 lengths over Southern France, who in turn stuck his neck in front of Nelson to take second.
The three sophomores are all owned by Derrick Smith, Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor, and were ridden by Ryan Moore, Seamie Heffernan and Donnacha O’Brien, respectively. The final time for the 1 3/4-mile contest was 3:00.89.
“We always thought Kew Gardens would stay, and he loves fast ground,” Aidan O’Brien said. “We were very happy with him all the time and, even though he was a bit disappointing in Epsom (he was ninth of 12 in the Derby [Eng-G1]), we have been very happy with him since then.
“Donnacha (O’Brien’s younger son) thought after riding him in Epsom that maybe we rode him too forward and that taking your time on him a bit more would suit him. Ryan did that today and it worked out lovely.
“I am delighted with the other two,” the trainer continued. “It was Nelson’s first run back for a long time while Southern France is still a big baby who is going to improve a lot as the year goes on. We thought all three would stay beyond a mile and a half – that’s what they are bred to do, really.”
Kew Gardens could try the Irish Derby (Ire-G1) next or wait for the St Leger (Eng-G1), according to O’Brien.
“Kew Gardens can do a lot things,” the master of Ballydoyle said of the Galileo colt. “He can go back for the Irish Derby or have a little rest and be trained for the St Leger. The St Leger is a long way away but in the autumn it would be a lovely race for him. But he came out of Epsom very well and if he comes out of this as well, he could well go for the Irish Derby; it’s always a race we consider with these horses. We’ll see how he is.”
Day 2 at Royal Ascot kicked off in exciting fashion when Phoenix Thoroughbred and Zen Racing’s SIGNORA CABELLO captured the Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-G2) by a short head over Gossamer Wings, who in turn finished a short head in front of Shades of Blue.
Trained by John Quinn and ridden by Oisin Murphy, Signora Cabello was a longshot at 25-1. The Camacho two-year-old miss ran five furlongs in 1:00.65.
“Signora Cabello was a huge price given how on top she was at the line at York last time out (won a listed contest by 1 1/4 lengths),” the North Yorkshire trainer said. “She didn’t know what price she was and all she’s done is improve all along.
“Signora Cabello is very laid back but she does help you. Even today, she was very relaxed. She has a very good mind and she has plenty of ability.”
“This is the Olympics of Flat racing, the most important week in British Flat racing for sure, and to ride a winner here is a dream come true,” Murphy said of his second Royal Ascot victory; his first came at last year’s meeting, when he rode Benabtl to take the Hampton Court Stakes.
Prior to the Jersey Stakes, SETTLE FOR BAY prevailed by 2 1/4 lengths in the Royal Hunt Cup, a Heritage Handicap. The Rio de la Plata four-year-old gelding was ridden by Billy Lee and finished a mile in 1:39.42.
Trainer David Marnane was a bit emotional after the race as Settle for Bay, who broke his pelvis last year, gave him a second Royal Ascot win after Dandy Boy’s 2012 Wokingham Handicap victory.
“We knew all the way through last year that he was this sort of class; he progressed all along,” Marnane said. “It’s one thing to have (class), another to get him here. He broke his pelvis last year, taking a step out of the stalls on his second run as a three-year-old, so it is a remarkable recovery. Thankfully the vets have done a great job.
“We’ve had this race in mind for a long time, and it’s come off. He’s won and we are delighted. When you train 20 horses, and you’ve won a Wokingham and now a Royal Hunt Cup, it’s very special.”