The fourth day of Royal Ascot was a showcase for promising 3-year-olds with the star turning out to be Alpha Centauri, who doubled up her win at the Irish 1,000 Guineas with a record performance in the Coronation Cup.
Her Majesty presided on a warm, sunny day in an outfit of brilliant lime green but saw her runner fade from contention in the King Edward VII. Sir Michael Stoute added to his record win total at the Royal meetings.
Here's how things went on the penultimate day of the Royal shindig:
The Coronation Cup
The Group 1 Coronation Cup for 3-year-old fillies was a battle among three Guineas winners and it was the Irish form that not only proved best, but in record fashion.
Alpha Centauri, with Colm O'Donoghue riding, came around the early speed as the field turned for home and the issue was settled in a twinkling. Striding out powerfully, Alpha Centauri drew off to win by 6 lengths over Threading while finishing in a course-record time of 1:35.89. Trainer Jessica Harrington won her first Royal Ascot race.
Veracious was third and the English Guineas winner, Billesdon Brook, finished a distant fourth. Teppal, the previously undefeated winner of the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches or French 1000 Guineas, never fired and finished ninth.
Alpha Centauri, a daughter of Mastercraftsman out of the Rahy mare Alpha Lupi, won her first two starts as a juvenile, then finished second in the Albany in last year's Royal meeting and sixth in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud at the Curragh. After a poor outing on heavy ground in her 3-year-old debut, she won the Irish 1,000 Guineas by 1 3/4 lengths, ridden out.
"The ground is the key to her," Harrington said. "As you see there, she is a very big filly ... and I think when she is on soft ground she physically can't get her feet out of the ground. She just floats on top of the ground. What she wants is good ground, what she doesn't want is heavy ground."
The going at Ascot this week has been good to firm straight around the course.
Alan Cooper, racing manager for the owners, the Niarchos family, said he will consult with them and with Harrington about Alpha Centauri's schedule. "But there is a race at Deauville in the middle of August that the family sponsors," he said. "It might be an option."
The King Edward VII
Old Persian emerged from back of a moderate pace to win the Group 2 King Edward VII, known informally as the Ascot Derby, by 1 3/4 lengths over Rostropovich. Giuseppe Garibaldi was third and Raa Atoll, who made all the early going under Frankie Dettori, held gamely to finish fourth.
Old Persian, a Dubawi colt trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by William Buick, won four of his first seven starts and missed the frame only once in those. He was stepping up significantly for the King Edward.
"You saw William make a great maneuver after the first two or three furlongs," Appleby said. He just sat on Frankie's quarters because we know Frankie on the front end is always dangerous, and when he looked through his legs and had everyone stacked up behind, I knew William was in the right place."
Appleby, who is training through a purple patch of a year for Godolphin, said the St Leger is "something to keep an eye on" for Old Persian in the autumn. "But I'm happy to stay at a mile and a half given the pace he has shown at shorter trips," he added. "I've put him in the Grand Prix de Paris (on Bastille Day at ParisLongchamp) and that is one for option.
"I am delighted for the whole team. This is what Royal Ascot is all about."
Although there were only nine runners, the race included a big slice of racing's top global ownership ranks. Godolphin campaigns the winner and the Irish Coolmore partners landed second and third, just in front of China Horse Club's Raa Atoll. Her Majesty the Queen was rooting for her homebred colt, Elector, who raced prominently but faded to finish seventh.
The Commonwealth Cup
Eqtidaar found another gear in the final furlong of the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup for 3-year-olds, hit the front in the middle of the course and eased home first by 1/2 length over Sands of Mali.
Eqtidaar is owned by Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who extended his record as top Royal Ascot conditioner with his 78th all-time win. The Invincible Spirit colt came to the 6-furlongs dash as only a maiden winner from his first four starts. He was fourth in his last start but Sir Michael said he was not shocked at Friday's result.
"We have always liked this horse," said the trainer, who notched his third win of the meeting. "I thought things just didn't go quite right for him the first time he ran here in the Pavilion Stakes. Then at Newbury last time, he was on the wrong side of the track and at halfway was too far out of his ground.
"He worked very well the other weekend under Jim Crowley, so we were hopeful."
Others who were better fancied did not fare so well. Invincible Army, who was reluctant to go down to the gate, finished ninth. Sioux Nation, winner of last year's Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting, was a bigger disappointment, reporting 16th of 22.
American hopeful Gidu, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by the American Pharoah connections, could do no better than sixth in the Commonwealth. "It was a good effort," said John Velazquez, who rode the gray Frankel colt. "It was a tough race. I love to be here. You love to win. Winning is the most important bit but as long as they run and try hard, you can't beat that. Especially here."
The Albany Stakes
Main Edition ran on strongly in the final furlong to win the day's opening event, the Group 3 Albany Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by a neck as jockey James Doyle registering his tenth victory overall Royal Ascot win.
Godolphin's La Pelosa was second with the Aidan O'Brien-trained Fairyland another 1/2 length back in third.
Main Edition, a Zoffany filly, came to the Albany undefeated, having won her first two starts both by open lengths.
"It is very early days to talk abut the 1,000 Guineas," said winning trainer Mark Johnston. But, he added, "Though we were joking with the owner before this race that we'll be back for the Coronation Stakes after she's won the Guineas!"
The Sandringham Stakes
Agroterra, the favorite in a massive field of 23 3-year-old fillies, was steadied at the start of the Sandringham Stakes, made up ground to lead entering the final furlong and carried on to win by 2 1/4 lengths from Ortiz. Escape the City was third.
Jamie Spencer rode the Mastercraftsman filly for trainer Ed Walker, who notched his first Royal Ascot victory. She is owned by her breeder, Bjorn Nielsen, whose Stradivarius won the Gold Cup a day earlier. Agroterra progressed through her first two starts, finally breaking into the winner's ranks in a maiden event at Royal Windsor in her last start in May.
"She came from last to first and Jamie gave her a great ride," Nielsen said. "This filly hasn't been in this big a field yet and having to come through them like she did, despite having a bit of hand, you never really know how they are going to handle things. Once she hit the front, it was easier viewing!
Nielsen also revealed Stradivarius lost a shoe in the running of the Gold Cup.
The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes
A Dash of Spice added, well, a dash of spice to the day's festivities with a late-running victory as the favorite in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at 1 1/2 miles.
The 4-year-old Teofilo colt, with Silvestre de Sousa riding for trainer David Elsworth, raced in mid-pack, worked through some traffic and hit the front inside the furlong marker. Sir Chauvelin was best of the rest, 1 length ahead of Walton Street.
A Dash of Spice scored his third win from seven starts and now is a winner on both turf and the all-weather. Elsworth said he would love to win at the Ebor meeting in York and then added a daydream.
"Well, we went to Melbourne with Persian Punch a couple of times, and if it could happen, we'd love to take this horse to Melbourne," he said. "But I think I am galloping away with emotion. This is only a handicap win after all."