The 2020 Royal Ascot meeting wrapped up on Saturday with an action-packed afternoon of high-class racing. Five of the eight events were group stakes races, including the Diamond Jubilee (G1), a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
The 6-furlong sprint was the final Group 1 test of the five-day meet, and the race lived up to its billing with a dramatic drive to the finish line. The victorious Hello Youmzain experienced a most unusual trip; he led early before conceding the advantage to Sands of Mali, then reclaimed command with less than a quarter-mile remaining, only to lose his lead to the charging favorite Sceptical.
But Hello Youmzain proved to be a fierce fighter in the final furlong, tenaciously battling back as the finish line loomed large. Racing to the front for the third time proved to be the charm, as Hello Youmzain edged past Sceptical and held off a late surge from runner-up Dream of Dreams to prevail by a hard-fought head.
Winner of the Sprint Cup (G1) at Haydock last summer, the Kevin Ryan-trained 4-year-old hit the wire in 1:13.42 over good going to give jockey Kevin Stott his first victory at Royal Ascot.
“He jumped well and Kevin did the right thing, let him find his stride and where he was happy, and when it came to the business end, he battled on hard,” said Adam Ryan, son of the trainer. “He is a very game, very tough horse, and especially to do that on his first run of the season was very impressive.”
Owned by the partnership of Haras d’Etreham and Cambridge Stud, Hello Youmzain was making his second start at Royal Ascot, following a third-place effort in the 2019 Commonwealth Cup (G1).
“He did well over the winter; he strengthened up and matured again,” continued Ryan. “We had him as well as we could have done at home—his work has been very good. We always thought this year he’d be more of the finished article, and he looked fantastic today. Credit to the team.”
Queen Mary Stakes
Only time will tell if Hello Youmzain accepts his invitation to the Breeders’ Cup—for now, the July Cup (G1) or the Nunthorpe (G1) is next on his agenda—but it seems likely U.S. racing fans will be treated to the sight of Campanelle at Keeneland this fall. Owned by Stonestreet Stables, the 2-year-old daughter of Kodiac gave American trainer Wesley Ward his 11th overall success at Royal Ascot when sprinting to victory in the 5-furlong Queen Mary (G2).
With acclaimed jockey Frankie Dettori in the saddle, Campanelle was content to track the early pace while racing on the far side of the course. When called upon for her best run, she produced a strong turn-of-foot, sprinting past Sacred to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:00.18.
The victory marked a breakthrough for Ward, who went winless at Royal Ascot in 2019. The trainer saddled Golden Pal and Kimari to encouraging runner-up efforts against stakes company on Friday, but Campanelle went one better to turn Ward’s luck around.
“We are going crazy here!” Ward said from Keeneland in Kentucky, where he watched the Queen Mary. “…We are all real excited—I had all the stables lads here at the barn and they are all jumping up and down.”
Ward indicated the Aug. 22 Prix Morny (G1), a 6-furlong sprint at Deauville in France, would be the next target for Campanelle, who previously won a maiden event at Gulfstream Park.
“I had such high expectations for Campanelle and she came through,” continued Ward. “She won on a tropical climate in Gulfstream down on the grass there, which was the first maiden race on turf. She then shipped from Miami through to Amsterdam and all the way to Newmarket. To run right back in the biggest two-year-old filly race at Ascot and for her to come through proves what a really good filly she is.”
In between the Diamond Jubilee and Queen Mary, sophomore milers took center stage in a pair of Group 1 tests. The Coronation (G1) for fillies saw Alpine Star pull away down the lane to record a dominant victory in her first run of the year for trainer Jessica Harrington. Winner of the Debutante (G2) as a juvenile, Alpine Star parlayed a ground-saving trip under Frankie Dettori into a runaway triumph, defeating Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) champion Sharing by 4 1/4 lengths in the time of 1:42.21.
St. James’s Palace Stakes
Barely more than half an hour later, Dettori returned to the winner’s circle aboard Palace Pier, who unleashed a determined charge from off the pace to beat heavy favorite Pinatubo by a length in the St. James’s Palace (G1) for colts. The son of fast miler Kingman was making his stakes debut but handled the class jump just fine, hitting the wire in 1:42.38 to bring his record to an undefeated 4-for-4 for trainer John Gosden.
By bagging three winners on closing day, Dettori doubled his total from the first four days, winning the Royal Ascot meet title in narrow fashion over Jim Crowley. Dettori and Crowley both rode six winners apiece, but Frankie Dettori secured more runner-up finishes to prevail in a tiebreaker. Even better, winning the Coronation allowed Dettori to complete his personal collection of top-level Royal Ascot trophies—the Italian rider has now won every Group 1 race at the royal meeting at least once.
“It has been an unbelievable day and an unbelievable Royal Ascot,” said Dettori. “To come out of here with six wins is not easy. You can sit back and say what you want, this will win and that will win, but you still have to go out there and do it. I’ve had some great ammunition with all different owners and trainers, and it’s been a successful and fun week for me.”
Dettori’s success played an integral role in carrying John Gosden to the top of the 2020 Royal Ascot trainer standings. With half a dozen winners, all in group stakes races, Gosden finished comfortably clear of Aidan O’Brien and Roger Varian (four wins apiece), and four of Gosden’s victories came with Dettori in the saddle.
“I was hopeful for three winners, maybe four,” said Gosden. “Six is way beyond expectations… We have nothing to complain about, the horses came fresh and well into the three weeks of racing we’ve had. Full marks to the staff doing a great job with the horses.”
Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum likewise won six races to secure the title of winning owner. Battaash was the star of the stable with his triumph in the King’s Stand (G1), though other significant wins came courtesy of Nazeef in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) and Molatham in the Jersey (G3).
The 2020 Royal Ascot meet took on an unusual flavor compared to years past. COVID-19 restrictions prevented owners and fans from attending, placing a damper on the meet’s fabled pageantry. But for Royal Ascot to be held at all—and on schedule, no less—was as great a victory as any of the performances seen on track, and we can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store.