ASCOT: Arab dominance of the racing scene in Britain was evident when horses owned by a Saudi Arabian prince and a brother of the Emir of Qatar grabbed the headlines on the opening day of Royal Ascot yesterday.
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Kingman was a majestic winner of the feature event, St James’s Palace Stakes, after H E Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani started the meeting by winning the first two races.
A relative newcomer to the British turf, Sheikh Joaan was celebrating an inaugural Royal Ascot triumph. Abdullah, by contrast, has been a regular visitor to the hallowed winner’s circle ever since Abeer won him the Queen Mary Stakes in 1979.
Abdullah’s silks will forever be associated with Frankel, his unbeaten champion and winner of the St James’ Palace Stakes three years ago. And while Kingman is unlikely to emulate Frankel, he is a supremely talented horse in his own right.
This was his fifth win from six career starts to date - and much the most impressive. Restrained towards the rear by James Doyle, Kingman cruised up to long-time leader Night Of Thunder before accelerating clear in a handful of strides to win by 20 lengths, with Outstrip back in third place.
“He has an electrifying turn of foot,” the winning trainer, John Gosden, said afterwards.
“The jockey rode him the way I wanted him to do it. The plan was to wait and launch our attack in the final furlong. He (Doyle) has shown his skill.”
Kingman thus avenged the only blot on his record after he lost out to Night Of Thunder in last month’s 2,000 Guineas. Gosden was vindicated in his belief that Kingman would outrun Night Of Thunder on their next encounter. Few among his 33 previous Royal Ascot winners were more easily gained.
Richard Hannon offered no excuses for Night Of Thunder’s defeat but the trainer will try to take Kingman’s scalp later in the summer with Toronado, who started his own campaign with a decisive victory in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Richard Hughes, who set the pace aboard Night Of Thunder, rode a more patient race aboard Toronado. The colt took a few strides to respond when Hughes launched his challenge, although there was never much doubt he would land the spoils.
Sheikh Joaan purchased Toronado 18 months ago, since when the horse has lurched between brilliance and disappointment. Hughes believes the horse has now matured into the real deal.
The sheikh was still beaming with delight when he returned to the winner’s circle 35 minutes later after The Wow Signal responded to Frankie Dettori’s urgings to win the Coventry Stakes.
It was a 48th Royal Ascot triumph for the popular jockey, who is retained by Sheikh Joaan. The alliance has excellent prospects of supplementing its laurels when Treve, last season’s champion racehorse, contests the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday.