World-renowned trainer Aidan O’Brien made history on opening day of the 2023 Royal Ascot meet in England, saddling a pair of Group winners to push past Sir Michael Stoute and become the winningest trainer in Royal Ascot history.
O’Brien entered the five-day extravaganza with 81 Royal Ascot victories, one shy of Stoute’s record 82. O’Brien matched the record when favored River Tiber parlayed a pace-tracking trip into a hard-fought triumph in the six-furlong Coventry (G2) for juveniles. Later, in the St. James’s Palace (G1), the red-hot Paddington dominated his opposition over the one-mile round course to give O’Brien a record-breaking 83rd Royal Ascot win.
Both of O’Brien’s winners were guided by Ryan Moore. River Tiber had to work hard to beat 19 rivals, but the son of Wootton Bassett gallantly out-sprinted the Archie Watson trainee Army Ethos to prevail by a neck in 1:15.49 over a good course.
Bucanero Fuerte, Givemethebeatboys, Haatem, Bobsleigh, Watch My Tracer, Spanish Phoenix, Asadna, and Cuban Thunder rounded out the top 10, followed by American raider Fandom, Emperor’s Son, The Camden Colt, Prince X J, Ticktyboo, Flag of St George, Politico, Alfa Whiteburd, Packard, and Zoulu Chief.
“When we started working him, he always looked very good,” said O’Brien of the winner, who is unbeaten in three starts. “You need the best horse to win the Coventry. He was never disappointing in any of his work and the stronger the work got, the stronger he became. And at the end, the last piece of work he was doing too well, so that was my worry. He has matured a lot, put on a lot of weight, and he just finds it very easy. You could see him through the first part of the race today, he was going very easily.”
As for Paddington, he entered the St. James’s Palace off four consecutive victories, including a two-length score in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1). Though he started as the 2-1 second choice against Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas (G1) winner Chaldean, Paddington proved much the best in the end, chasing down the pacesetting favorite to win by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:40.74.
Chaldean settled for second under jockey Frankie Dettori, a neck clear of Charyn. Isaac Shelby, Indestructible, Mostabshir, Cicero’s Gift, Royal Scotsman, and Galeron completed the order of finish.
“Paddington is very exciting,” said O’Brien. “(Co-owner) John (Magnier) said to me that this horse would get further than a mile if you wanted him to, no problem. Ryan gave him a lovely ride—I thought he was excellent on him.
“Obviously, when Frankie is in front, it is always very dangerous, but Ryan gave him a masterful ride. He didn’t panic, produced him and he quickened. He is able to quicken very well—that is the big thing and what makes good horses great.”
The other major stakes of the day produced decidedly less predictable results. The meet opened with the Queen Anne (G1), in which a strong field galloped one mile over the straight course. The contest was billed as a showdown between 2022 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Modern Games and 2022 Coronation (G1) heroine Inspiral, but Modern Games failed to kick on in the final two furlongs while Inspiral was edged in the drive by 34-1 longshot Triple Time, a four-year-old son of Frankel making his first start of the season.
Ridden to victory by Neil Callan on behalf of Kevin Ryan, Triple Time was always forwardly placed and proved resilient in the drive, turning back Inspiral’s challenge to prevail by a neck. Light Infantry held for third after setting the pace, followed by Modern Games, Berkshire Shadow, Chindit, Angel Bleu, Native Trail, Cash, Pogo, Mutasaabeq, and Lusail.
“Triple Time was in great shape coming into the race,” said Ryan. “We’ve always had great faith in the horse; (owner) Sheikh Mohammed Obaid (Al Maktoum) has been very patient. Unfortunately, (Triple Time) got a bit of stomach cramp just before the Lockinge (G1) and we had to take him out, and he’s only had one ordinary run; that was in France in October on deep ground. Now hopefully we will have a full season with him, and he’s got his Group 1, which is great.
Triple Time completed the course in 1:40.70 to pick up a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
“Triple Time is up there with the best I’ve had—he’s very good,” continued Ryan. “He’s not a keen horse but he’s got a massive stride, and he’s not the type of horse you can break that stride. He’s very tough. We knew we had him as good as we could get him without a run and it’s paid off.”
A similarly surprising outcome unfolded in the King’s Stand (G1), a five-furlong turf dash awarding a Win and You’re In berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Three-time Group 1 winner Highfield Princess started as the 3-2 favorite and ran a gallant race up and on the pace, but 16-1 longshot Bradsell raced alongside her every step of the way and found a bit more in the drive, forging on to score by one length in 1:00.91.
The victory made Hollie Doyle the first female jockey to land a Group 1 prize at Royal Ascot. It also marked a first Royal Ascot Group 1 win for trainer Watson, two years after Watson’s Dragon Symbol was disqualified from first prize for interfering with a rival in the 2021 Commonwealth Cup (G1).
“I am delighted. When Dragon Symbol had the race taken away, it was terrible, and I didn’t want to do too much celebrating, but I am just delighted for everyone,” said Watson. “I know we’re seen as a big yard, but for a yard like us to be winning a Group 1 here is the best thing on the planet. There was dread when that bing-bong (of the stewards’ inquiry) happened, especially having just been chinned in the Coventry, but it’s amazing and I’m so pleased for everyone involved.”
Bradsell’s triumph was not without controversy, as he drifted toward Highfield Princess during the drive and prompted a stewards’ inquiry. But the results were allowed to stand, stamping Bradsell as a two-time Royal Ascot winner, having previously nabbed the 2022 Coventry as a juvenile.
The card closed out with a trio of smaller contests. The eight-year-old mare Ahorsewithnoname beat males in the 2 1/2-mile Ascot H., while 16-1 longshot Royal Champion took the 1 1/4-mile Wolferton S. and Vauban delivered as the 6-5 favorite in the Copper Horse H. Vauban was guided by Moore, giving the accomplished jockey three wins to start the meet.
Racing at Royal Ascot continues on Wednesday with five more stakes, including the Prince of Wales’s (G1), a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).