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Royal Ascot recap: Frankel to Black Caviar

  |   June 23, 2012 at 12:50 PM
ASCOT, England, June 23 (UPI) -- The world's top-rated horses opened and closed Royal Ascot with wins, but their stories were dramatically different.

While Frankel captured Tuesday's Queen Anne Stakes by an easy 11 lengths and has an unlimited future, Black Caviar just did squeak home first in Saturday's Diamond Jubilee after a dicey trip and her trainer said she may face retirement.

At the end of the day, however, both remained undefeated -- Frankel in 11 starts, Black Caviar in 22.

Black Caviar, racing for the first time outside Australia, held on to score by a head over Moonlight Cloud as jockey Luke Nolen appeared to relax in the irons in the final yards, almost costing the race.

Restiadargent finished third in the 6-furlong, Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, which wrapped up the Group 1 events at Royal Ascot.

Black Caviar, a 6-year-old New Zealand-bred mare, was always close to the lead and went to the front with about a furlong left in the race. She seemed to have held the competition safe until Nolen seemed to quit riding shortly before the wire. He quickly recouped and Black Caviar just did manage to do enough for the win, with Moonlight Cloud in front just past the winning post.

"I probably was a bit relaxed on her," Nolen said after the race, "and the big engine shut down under me. She took me by surprise. I thought we had enough of an advantage and I was trying to let her coast. She stopped and, as a result, we let them back in the race."

"I probably underestimated the testing track of Ascot," Nolen added. "It is quite unfortunate because it is going to overshadow what was a good win."

In addition to extending her win streak and proving her ability against international runners for the first time, Black Caviar now has won two legs of the Global Sprint Challenge. She now could collect a $1 million bonus for taking a third leg in a different country with races still available in Japan and Hong Kong.

However, trainer Peter Moody said that's unlikely as he judged Black Caviar to be less than 100 percent in her Diamond Jubilee effort.

"She was a long way off her top today," Moody said. "I'm very keen to get her home and have a look at her. She may be retired."

Asked specifically if he could be lured to bring Black Caviar to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in November, he added, "I don't think you'll see her travel again."

The controversial outcome of the Diamond Jubilee was in stark contrast to the opening Group 1 event of the Royal Ascot meeting.


Tuesday

Frankel lived up to his billing as the world's top-rated Thoroughbred, opening Royal Ascot with an 11-lengths win in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.

After letting stablemate Bullet Train set the early pace, jockey Tom Queally set Frankel to his task with 3 furlongs left in the 1-mile race and he quickly distanced the field. His old foe, Excelebration, finished second -- the fifth time he has been beaten by Frankel. Side Glance finished third.

The performance left even jaded racegoers in awe and cemented Frankel's place as one of the sport's all-time greats, with more apparently to come.

The 4-year-old Galileo colt, owned by Khalid Abdulla, now has won all 11 of his starts. Trainer Sir Henry Cecil said it appears Frankel is still improving and now will be considered for races beyond his previous 1-mile limit.

"It looks like he'll stay a mile and a quarter," Sir Henry said. "He's (entered) in the Eclipse, Sussex Stakes and Juddmonte. We'll feel our way and he'll tell me what to do."

Hong Kong invader Little Bridge took command with a furlong left to run in Tuesday's 5-furlong King's Stand Stakes and held off Bated Breath at the end to win by 3/4 length. Sole Power finished third. Little Bridge, a 6-year-old New Zealand-bred, got home in 59.69 over going rated good to soft. Ortensia, an Australian who has raced in the shadow of Black Caviar at home but carried all in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai, failed to menace, finishing eighth as the joint favorite.

The St James's Palace Stakes for 3-year-old colts was marred by the fatal breakdown of The Nile -- an accident which impeded several other runners, including the Aidan O'Brien hope, Power. At the end, it was Most Improved home first under Kieren Fallon. Most Improved finished 2 lengths better than Hermival and Georgian third. Born To Sea, a half-brother to Sea the Stars, put in a late run to take fourth. Most Improved, an Irish-bred Lawman colt, certainly improved on his last outing -- a traffic-troubled 14th placing in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly two weeks earlier.

In Tuesday's Group 2 Coventry Stakes for 2-year-olds, Dawn Approach remained unbeaten, picking up his fourth career win. Rider Keven Manning kicked the colt into gear from behind the pacemakers. He finished well to win by 3/4 length over Olympic Glory. Cristoforo Colombo was third and the favorite, Sir Prancealot, settled for fourth. Dawn Approach is an Irish-bred colt by New Approach out of Hymn of the Dawn, by Phone Trick. He ran the 6 furlongs over good turf in 1:13.64.


Wednesday

It appeared briefly that Her Majesty's own runner, Carlton House, was going to snatch victory from the favorite, So You Think, in the day's headliner, the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at 1 1/4 miles. Carlton House moved to the lead along the rail just as So You Think got clear on the outside and the two ran together long enough to get the royal heart beating quickly. But So You Think had plenty in reserve, found another gear to kick clear in deep stretch and won by a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths. Carlton House held off Farhh, who ran from the back of the field, to save second by 1/2 length. The race went in a quick 2:03.86 over ground rated good as Robin Hood made an honest pace for his stablemate to run after. Jockey Joseph O'Brien, the son of Trainer Aidan O'Brien, picked up his first win at Royal Ascot. So You Think, a former Australian champion, had lost four straight races before taking the Gold Cup at the Curragh last month. "Coming up to this race, his work had totally changed at home," the elder O'Brien said. "He had started to quicken in a way he had never done before." He credited advice from Aussie horsemen, including So You Think's former trainer, Bart Cummings, with helping him change training patterns and advance the horse back to his top level. So You Think, a 6-year-old, New Zealand-bred son of High Chaparral, is slated to make his final start for trainer Aidan O'Brien in next month's Coral Eclipse Stakes, then return Down Under to commence his second career in the antipodean springtime. Both Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Carlton House, and Saeed bin Suroor, conditioner of Farhh, said they were pleased with their steeds' performances.

Ceiling Kitty raced within striking distance in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, struck the lead a furlong from the line and went on to win by 1 length over Hoyam. Hairy Rocket was third in the 27-horse field. Ceiling Kitty, a daughter of Red Clubs out of the Tale of the Cat mare Baldovina, ran 5 furlongs over good turf in 59.18 seconds. She now has three wins from five starts.


Thursday

Godolphin finished 1-2 in the Group 1 Gold Cup over 2 1/2 miles but the "friendly" rivalries within the Dubai-based racing operation gave the placings a bit of an added flavor. At the end, it was the long-timers, jockey Frankie Dettori and trainer Saeed bin Suroor, victorious with Colour Vision, but only by 1/2 length over Opinion Poll with newcomers jockey Mickael Barzalona and trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni. At that, the winner had to survive an inquiry into bumping between the two before the result was posted official. Sadler's Rock was a close third while the favorite, Fame and Glory, finished seventh, lacking any energy in the final furlongs. A downpour in the half hour before the race returned the course to its early-week soft conditions and the race was run very slowly, with Colour Vision finishing in 4:42.05 -- more than 20 seconds off par. The winner, a 4-year-old son of Rainbow Quest, picked up his second straight win and fifth from 17 lifetime starts. "Either way, it would have been a fantastic result," said Godolphin Racing Manager Simon Crisford. He said Sheik Mohammed bin Suroor al Maktoum, master of Godolphin, gave Dettori "the choice two weeks ago and it was a really hard choice." Bin Suroor added, "He was on the right horse." Racing Post quoted Sheik Mohammed himself as downplaying the jockey competition: "They are two good jockeys. Frankie is great and Mickael is coming up this year."


Friday

Fallen For You rocketed from the back of the field in the late going of the Group 1 Coronation Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and got home first by 3 1/4 lengths over stablemate Starscope. Irish History finished third. Fallen For You, a daughter of Dansili, finished second in the May Hill Stakes last year for trainer John Gosden but had been disappointing since, winning only in a conditions race at Kempton. Ridden by William Buick, who topped all jockeys at the Royal meeting, Fallen For You ran the 1 mile on soft turf in 1:42.95. She now has won half her six career starts.

Her Majesty did have a winner. Estimate, a 3-year-old filly making only her third career start, ran well late to capture the Group 3 Queen's Vase Stakes at 2 miles over the soft turf. The Monsun filly finished 5 lengths ahead of the runner-up, Athens. Estimate has other royal connections, too, being bred by the Aga Khan. The Queen's trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, said, "I'm delighted for her. She does so much for racing." It was Her Majesty's first Royal Ascot winner since 2008.

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