Just how high can Lord North ascend? The 4-year-old son of Dubawi has improved with leaps and bounds since being gelded last spring and elevated his game to a new level when roaring to a 3 3/4-length triumph in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) on Wednesday at Royal Ascot.
A “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), the Prince of Wales’s unfolded at a steady tempo beneficial to Lord North’s late-running style. As Bangkok set the pace with Group 1 winners Addeybb and Japan in close pursuit, Lord North—making his top-level debut off a score in Haydock Park’s Brigadier Gerard (G3) just 10 days ago—was content to trail the field under jockey James Doyle.
But Lord North didn’t remain at the back of the pack for long. As the field swung into the straight, Doyle swung Lord North to the outside for racing room, and the gelding’s response was instantaneous. With a terrific turn of foot, Lord North swallowed his rivals in the blink of an eye, drawing clear with eye-catching authority to reach the wire in 2:05.63 over good ground.
Addeybb fought on to finish second over the late-running Barney Roy, but was no match for the runaway winner. Japan, the 6-4 betting favorite off victories in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) and Juddmonte International (G1) as a sophomore, came up empty in his 4-year-old debut and beat only the longshots Bangkok, Mehdaayih, and Headman across the finish line.
Bred by Godolphin and owned by Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed Racing, Lord North was a capable handicap performer in 2019, but his 2-for-2 record against group stakes company this season suggests the sky is the limit for improving bay gelding. The emergence of Lord North as a top prospect adds further depth to the formidable stable of trainer John Gosden, who leads the 2020 Royal Ascot trainer rankings with three winners so far.
“Lord North has got better and better. He is very powerful and, for a gelding, he has a great body to him,” said Gosden. “I was looking at the race and talking to Peter [Shoemark, John Gosden’s Racing Office Manager] and I thought this race was winnable for Lord North, so at 9:55 a.m. we put him—it was very late. I was toying between this race and the Wolferton [on Wednesday] under a penalty as you want to have a winner at Royal Ascot. I said no, let’s go for this.”
Gosden is well-armed to maintain his position atop the trainer standings as the five-day Royal Ascot meet continues. He has horses entered in six of the seven races on Thursday’s card, including Stradivarius, who will be heavily favored to record a third consecutive victory in the historic 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup (G1). The only question is whether course conditions will suit the decorated 6-year-old, as rain in the forecast could favor the up-and-coming Technician, winner of the Prix Royal-Oak (G1) over heavy ground last fall.
“[Stradivarius] does not want soft ground, if we get a lot of rain it dents that wonderful turn of foot which is his great weapon,” remarked Gosden. “I hope it remains relatively dry, if it doesn’t, it opens it up and a horse like Technician comes into play.”
Following the Prince of Wales’s, James Doyle added to his successful afternoon by riding Tactical to victory in the 5-furlong Windsor Castle S., giving The Queen her first winner at Royal Ascot since 2016. Securing a double moved Doyle into a tie for second place in the jockey standings with Ryan Moore, who nabbed Wednesday’s Hampton Court (G3) with a stretch-running ride aboard Russian Emperor.
But Doyle and Moore will have to double their win tallies to catch Jim Crowley, who picked up his fourth winner of the royal meeting when guiding longshot Hukum to an upset score in the King George V Stakes. All three jockeys will ride a minimum of six horses on Thursday, setting up a competitive battle for supremacy of the rider rankings.