1 of 3 | Blue Point (blue cap) holds on to win the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes on the final day of Royal Ascot. Photo courtesy of Ascot Racecourse
June 22 (UPI) -- Blue Point closed out Royal Ascot 2019 in royal fashion Saturday, winning the featured Diamond Jubilee Stakes to complete an historic sweep of the week's two Group 1 sprints.
That win capped a great day for Godolphin, the racing enterprise of Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai. Godolphin also sent out a hugely promising 2-year-old, saw 2018 Derby winner Masar finally make a promising -- if momentarily frightening -- return to the races, and just missed with another runner in a Group 3.
Her Majesty the Queen kicked off the final day of the Royal meeting, rolling down the course in the lead carriage wearing an ensemble described officially as muted lime green.
In the day's feature, Blue Point completed an historic double for Godolphin, returning four days after winning the Group 1 King's Stand to capture the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee on the closing day of the Royal meeting.
The 5-year-old son of Shamardal, destined to be a star stallion for Godolphin, ran his 2019 record to 5-for-5 -- a skein that also includes the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night in Dubai.
For a few desperate seconds on Saturday, though, it appeared the win streak was in jeopardy.
Jockey James Doyle got Blue Point a clean trip in the Diamond Jubilee, chased down Kachy, who set a hot early pace, and was in the clear with a furlong left. But he then was all out in the final yards to hang on and win by a head over the onrushing Dream of Dreams. Kachy held third and the week's final U.S. hope, Bound for Nowhere, finished nowhere, fading to get home 13th under Tyler Gaffalione.
"It got a little bit hairy late on," Doyle confessed. "He just got a bit lonely out in front, but when he felt the other horse come, he stuck his neck out. He's an amazing horse. I have never met a horse as tough as this, he is unbelievable."
The race honors Her Majesty's long tenure as monarch and she presented the trophy personally to Sheik Mohammed, whose non-racing persona is Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates.
Sheik Mohammed said the decision to return Blue Point for the Diamond Jubilee was, "for me, very easy. Just to see him again. Good horses give me great pleasure."
Trainer Charlie Appleby said Blue Point himself signaled his readiness to race twice in a five-day span. "We made sure he was not stiff or fatigued, that he was rehydrated" after the King's Stand, Appleby said.
"It's very sporting of Sheikh Mohammed to allow me to run this horse back so quickly, but it is also what racing is all about -- letting these horses do what they are good at," Appleby said.
Only two other horses have swept the two top sprints at Royal Ascot, most recently Australian runner Choisir in 2003. Blue Point is the first to take both since the King's Stand was elevated to Group 1 status in 2008.
The Diamond Jubilee was a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint this fall but Appleby said that race isn't on Blue Point's dance card.
"I think it's very unlikely. He's not very good on the turns," the trainer said. But we'll find one to come over there. Don't worry."
Pinatubo gave the Godolphin team even more occasion for big smiles with a record-smashing victory in the day's opener, the Chesham Stakes for 2-year-olds going 1,400 meters.
As the field passed the 2-furlongs marker in the Chesham, Coolmore's hope and wagering favorite Lope Y Fernandez surged to the front under Ryan Moore. But he quickly found himself swamped by Pinatubo's turn of foot and the latter, with Doyle in the kip, dashed away to win by 3 1/4 lengths, the time of 1:25.73 eclipsing the juvenile course record.
Pinatubo, a Godolphin homebred by Shamardal, won his first start on the Wolferhampton all-weather course, then easily captured a conditions race May 31 at Epsom. "I think he showed an impressive turn of foot that day," Appleby said. "I was confident through (the Chesham) we'd be there at the business end."
"Going forward," he added, "a race such as the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwod would suit him -- he has the experience around Epsom and the undulations at Goodwood can catch these juveniles out. But he seems like a very professional horse."
The Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes was a messy affair as the 2018 Derby winner, Masar, making his first start since that triumph more than a year ago, stumbled badly shortly after the start, nearly tossing Doyle to the turf and scrambling several rivals. The issues did not affect the winner, Defoe, who hit the lead in the lane and held off Nagano Gold to win by 1/2 length.
Nagano Gold, trained in the Czech Republic, took the worst of the start and had to rally from well back. So did Masar, who reached contention at mid-stretch but tired to finish fifth.
Defoe, a 5-year-old gray gelding by Dalakhani, backed up a victory last time out in the Group 1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom but jockey Andrea Atzeni admitted to some concern late. "I probably got there sooner than I'd have liked," he said.
"It is always nice when they back up a victory like that in their next race. I thought it was a tough performance," said winning trainer Roger Varian. "Hopefully, we can bring him back for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes next month. That race has to be on the radar now."
Masar's rider, James Doyle, described the scary start: "Masar stood in the stalls like normal, then as they opened, I am not really sure what happened but his nose disappeared. Luckily, when he came back up, he hit me in the chest and put me back in the saddle. It is not the start you want in a big race like that, but what can you do?"
Appleby said that after the start, "We were just happy to still have a horse in the race ... Obviously, he was entitled to get a little tired. I hope we'll have a lot of fun with him in the summer."
Tomas Janda, representative for Nagano Gold's owner-trainer Vaclav Luka, said the unlucky second-place finish will be a boost for racing back home. "A lot of people were watching the race at home, it will help racing in Czech. Even people who don't watch racing in Czech knew about this."
The Group 3 Jersey Stakes for 3-year-olds was all about space. The winner, Space Traveler, had plenty of it while rallying to victory while Godolphin's Space Blues lacked it through much of the race and, despite getting the lead late, was unable to hold on. Space Traveler, a Bated Breath colt, prevailed by a head with Danny Tudhope riding his fourth winner of the Royal meeting.
Space Traveler, trained by Richard Fahey, went to the post at odds of 25-1 after going winless in seven starts since his maiden win just more than a year earlier. Space Blues, by contrast, entered off back-to-back wins at York and Epsom.
"He's got a tremendous amount of ability and I'm glad he was able to show it today," Tudhope said.
As the day and the week wore down:
Cape Byron made steady progress down the center of the course to defeat 25 rivals in the Wokingham Stakes at 1,200 meters. Tiz Marvelous and Danzeno were second and third.
Cape Byron, a 5-year-old son of Shamardal owned by Sheik Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, won his first race since October over the Ascot course May 11 and was sent off the 7-2 favorite by the Ascot punters.
The final race of the day and of the 2019 meeting, the 2 3/4-miles Queen Alexandra, went to Cleonte, a 6-year-old by Sir Percy, who outsprinted Pallasator in the late going to ring down the curtain. Silvestre De Sousa had the ride for trainer Andrew Balding.
See you again when the carriages roll in 2020.