Trainer Wesley Ward has become a mainstay at Royal Ascot, but was in danger of being shut out during the 2018 stand. On Thursday, however, Breeze Easy LLC’s SHANG SHANG SHANG nosed out her male rivals to secure victory in the Norfolk Stakes (Eng-G2) for her conditioner on Day 3 of the royal meeting.
With jockey Joel Rosario aboard, the juvenile daughter of Shanghai Bobby ran her mark to a perfect two-for-two when sticking her nose in front of Pocket Dynamo on the wire of the Norfolk, which is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series. The Florida-bred filly earned an all-fess paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) in November at Churchill Downs when finishing five furlongs on the good-to-firm turf in :59.83 Thursday.
“To do this with a filly is quite unbelievable,” Ward said. “I come here every year, but we were kinda scratching our heads for a few days and felt like we were back at the beginning and wondering if we were in the wrong place or not. We had done all the planning just as before but it wasn’t coming through – thank God it did today.”
“It was a nerve-wracking finish and for a minute, I thought they were going to get me. She responded to everything I asked her to do,” Rosario said. “She was very brave. It was very close at the finish, but we got it done.
“It means a lot to me to have another winner at Royal Ascot,” he added in regards to scoring his second Royal Ascot victory. “There are amazing people who come here and it is a dream come true to win. I’m really happy and blessed to be here.”
Ward was quick to praise his stable staff for their hard work in getting his contingent ready for both the meet and trans-Atlantic trip, as well as Rosario.
“I have got to tell you something about this jockey. He is fabulous. He has put the time and effort in, which is why he is here. He has won Derbys, World Cups, yet he was in every day breezing my two-year-olds all winter long,” Ward said.
“This really is the best, and everybody has been so gracious,” he added of his 10th Royal Ascot triumph.
The horseman has four more opportunities to add to his Royal Ascot tally. He sends out Stillwater Cove in Friday’s Albany Stakes (Eng-G3), and on Saturday has Bound for Nowhere entered in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Eng-G1), Moonlight Romance headed to the Windsor Castle Stakes and saddles Undrafted in the Wokingham Handicap.
Shang Shang Shang’s win in the Norfolk kicked off Day 3 at the royal meeting in rousing fashion, but the excitement didn’t stop there.
Jockey Frankie Dettori earned his 60th win at Royal Ascot, and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, when guiding the John Gosden-trained STRADIVARIUS to a three-quarter length victory in the Gold Cup (Eng-G1).
The Bjorn Nielsen homebred held off a late run from Vazirabad to stop the clock in 4:21.08. It was just a head back to Torcedor while last year’s Gold Cup winner, Order of St George, finished another three lengths behind in fourth.
“What an exciting finish that was – and look at the line-up as they headed to the line. That’s a pretty smart front four,” Gosden said. “It was a fascinating tactical race, because if Frankie had gone too soon there was the danger that Vazirabad would nail him.
“He’s a proper little staying horse that we call Mighty Mouse because he’s not very big – he looks a bit like a mini Trigger with his four white feet, but he is a gorgeous horse,” Gosden described Stradivarius. “He’s done it really, really well, and loves this ground as he can flick off it and quicken well.”
The four-year-old son of Sea the Stars, who captured the Queen’s Vase Stakes (Eng-G2) at last year’s Royal Ascot meet, gave Dettori his 60th win at the royal meeting. Queen Elizabeth II presented the rider with a saddle cloth commemorating the occasion.
“The Gold Cup is the highlight of the week and to win it again is amazing, especially as it’s my first one for John Gosden and team, who have been fabulous behind the scenes,” Dettori said. “Stradivarius was a lion. He fought everything off.”
One race before the Gold Cup, MAGIC WAND recorded an easy four-length score in the Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-G2) under jockey Ryan Moore for trainer Aidan O’Brien and owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Sue Magnier.
Magic Wand ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.52 to defeat French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-G1) queen and Epsom Oaks (Eng-G1) runner-up Wild Illusion. The Galileo sophomore lass was fourth behind that rival last out in the Oaks, which was won by the O’Brien-trained Forever Together.
“We were very happy with Magic Wand after the Oaks – the ground went unusually soft in Epsom – and she came out of it well in every sense,” the master of Ballydoyle said.
“Forever Together might go back to the Pretty Polly ([Ire-G1] at the Curragh) and this filly might go to the Irish Oaks (Ire-G1), and then they both might head for the Arc or something like that,” O’Brien added about future plans.
The Ribblesdale win capped off a double for the connections, as HUNTING HORN posted a 4 1/2-length victory in the Hampton Court Stakes (Eng-G3) just one race prior. It also gave Moore his 50th winner at Royal Ascot.
Hunting Horn, a sophomore son of Camelot, completed 10 furlongs in 2:03.02 when finishing in front of Crossed Baton on the wire.
“We were delighted with Hunting Horn’s last run (when sixth in the Prix du Jockey Club [Fr-G1] at Chantilly), and he also had a lovely run in Sandown (when third in the Classic Trial in April),” O’Brien said. “He relaxes, travels well and quickens well. His dad (Camelot) was the same when there was pace on and it was a nice, evenly run race today.”
“He is a progressive horse and that was obviously a big jump up on what he has done before,” Moore added. “He is getting better and hopefully will carry on that way.”
The final two races on Day 3 of Royal Ascot 2018 were the Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap) and King George V Stakes.
Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s OSTILLIO captured the Britannia Stakes under jockey Silvestre de Sousa. The New Approach sophomore colt ran a mile in 1:38.85 and finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Curiosity to give Simon Crisford his first Royal Ascot winner as a trainer.
“Do you know something, I’m just so thrilled. It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Crisford said. “I came here with Godolphin (as the racing manager); we’d always have four favorites on the first day, second day, third day – we’d win two, be beaten in the other two, 65-odd winners at the highest level, but I have to say, we never won the Britannia! So I’ve ticked that box now. Fantastic, and what a lovely horse.”
Crisford was congratulated in the winner’s enclosure by Sheikh Mohammed, the founder of Godolphin.
Mohammed bin Hamad Khalifa Al Attiya’s BAGHDAD posted a neck score over Corgi, with First Eleven just a nose farther back in third, in the King George V Handicap to wrap up Thursday’s Royal Ascot action. Trained by Mark Johnston, the three-year-old son of Frankel defeated 17 total rivals when running 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.36 under jockey Andrea Atzeni.
“That was great,” Johnston said. “He’s a real tough little horse. I thought he was maybe a bit more exposed than some of my others, but clearly not.”
“He is a typical Mark Johnston horse in that he was very brave and wasn’t going to let anyone get by him,” Atzeni added.