Golden Horde wins Grade I Commonwealth Cup on Friday -- on a day of upsets at Royal Ascot. Photo courtesy of Ascot Racecourse
June 19 (UPI) -- The fourth day of Royal Ascot was a tough one for favorites, as the likes of Anthony Van Dyck, Eye of Heaven and Lope y Fernandez all went down to defeat over the rain-softened turf.
It was also a "what might have been" day for trainer Wesley Ward, a trailblazer for American participation in the Royal meeting. Two of his horses just missed on Friday's card, one of them nipped in the final strides, while a third was well-beaten.
In the day's feature, the Group 1 Commonwealth Stakes for 3-year-old colts and fillies, Golden Horde took the lead midway through the 6-furlongs dash and held well to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
The Lethal Force colt, trained by Clive Cox and ridden by Adam Kirby, was making his first start of the year after finishing 2019 with a runner-up showing in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in September.
The Ward-trained Kimari settled for second after an awkward start for jockey Frankie Dettori. The Munnings filly made good progress to reach contention, but never could challenge the winner. She also settled for second at last year's Royal Ascot in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes.
Ventura Rebel, at 50-1 odds, and 250-1 long shot Royal Commando were third and fourth, respectively, in the Commonwealth as the favorite, Lope y Fernandez, faded through the final furlong to finish 11th.
"We always trained him last year with the knowledge that with the right sort of behavior he would be a better horse this year, as well," Cox said of Golden Horde. "It is just fantastic when it goes right and when dreams are realized."
Cox said the July Cup at Newmarket on July 11 is a logical next target for Golden Horde
"That was very much on our minds," he said. "He has done the job really well today, and I would like to think that would put a real edge on him having a race. I think mentally with these sprinters to have a race is important."
Ward's earlier heartbreak came in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds as The Lir Jet came along in the final strides to defeat pacesetting Golden Pal by a neck.
The Lir Jet, a Prince of Lir colt trained by Michael Bell for Qatar Racing, upped his record to 2-for-2 with the victory while finishing 5 furlongs in 1:01.55 over good to soft going.
Ward, who stayed in Kentucky because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sent Golden Pal to Ascot after a good second-place showing in his career debut at Gulfstream Park April 17. The colt was sired by Uncle Mo.
Imperial Force was third in the Norfolk. The highly regarded favorite, Eye of Heaven, finished ninth, beaten more than 11 lengths.
"I think he is all speed," Bell said of The Lir Jet. "He is by a sprinter out of a Green Desert mare. I think he will definitely get six [furlongs], but I wouldn't be thinking he will get further than that.
The sire won the (2016) Norfolk on soft ground, so we were quite hopeful with the ground. ... He has obviously already won on fast ground, so he is one of those lucky horses that goes on anything."
Bell mentioned the Group 1 Prix Morny as a possible next target.
In the Group 3 Albany Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Dandalla rallied from the rear of the 13-horse field, hit the front approaching the furlong marker and scooted off to win by 6 lengths.
The favorite, Setarhe, had some traffic trouble before getting room and finished second, no threat to the winner. Mother Earth was third and Ward's entry, Flying Aletha, faded from the early lead to finish 10th under William Buick.
Ben Curtis rode Dandalla, a daughter of Dandy Man, for trainer Karl Burke. She now is 2-for-2 with the earlier win coming on the Newcastle all-weather track June 2. The win was Curtis's first at Royal Ascot.
Dettori got another win in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at 1 1/2 miles as Fanny Logan responded in the final furlongs, took the lead with a furlong to run and won by 2 1/2 lengths.
Alounak was second with Defoe third. The two favorites, Coolmore's globetrotting star Anthony Van Dyck and Sheik Hamdan's Elarqam, were fifth and sixth.
Fanny Logan, a 4-year-old Sea the Stars filly trained by John Gosden, scored her sixth win from 11 starts. She finished fourth in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
In the Group 2 Queen's Vase at 1 3/4 miles, it was trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore reversing the disappointment of Anthony Van Dyck as Santiago came with a late move to post a moderate upset victory, defeating Berkshire Rocco by 2 3/4 lengths.
Al Dabaran was third, and the favorite, Born with Pride, struggled home fourth, more than 13 lengths back of the winner.
Santiago, an Authorized colt, had two wins and a second last season and was making his 2020 debut for the Coolmore lads.
In the day's other events, Scarlet Dragon scored a 33-1 upset win in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes and Art Power was the only winning favorite, taking the 5-furlongs Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths.
Holly Doyle rode Scarlet Dragon, giving female riders victories in two straight daily finales. Hayley Turner piloted Onassis to victory in Thursday's closer.
The schedule for this year's Royal Ascot was rearranged to accommodate the brief prep season due to COVID-19 shutdowns of racing. As a result, Saturday's closing day is jam-packed with action, including three Group 1 races.
The St. James's Palace Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 mile features Godolphin's Shamardal colt Pinatubo, Coolmore's No Nay Never colt Wichita and Sheik Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum's Kingman colt Palace Pier in a heavyweight showdown.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 6 furlongs is a tossup with nine talented sprinters. And the Coronation Stakes at 1 mile for 3-year-old fillies has Quadrilateral and Alpine Star in a field of seven.
There also are two more Group 2 events for 2-year-olds -- the Coventry at 6 furlongs and the fillies-only Queen Mary at 5 furlongs. Ward is back with two in the Queen Mary.