Farhh puts injury woes behind him to win Champions Stakes
Johnny Murtagh has memorable day at Ascot with Royal Diamond
Princess Beatrice presents Royal Diamond jockey Johnny Murtagh with both the jockey and trainer trophies after his success on Royal Diamond in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA
Farhh ended his injury-littered racing career on a high with a brave victory in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Training troubles have restricted the Godolphin-owned five-year-old to just 10 races, but he has never been out of the first three and was winning for a fifth time.
And he goes to Dalham Hall Stud on the back of a hard-fought victory, despite being off the track after winning the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May.
Advertising the skills of his handler Saeed bin Suroor, Farhh (11 to 4) needed stamina and courage in equal fashion but his Brazilian jockey Silvestre de Sousa kept him up to his work to hold off the 2011 winner Cirrus Des Aigles by just a neck.
Aidan O’Brien’s Ruler Of The World, the Epsom Derby winner, was half a length away in third.
Both the first and second had been no match for Frankel last year but with one champion retired to stud, the space was there for another star to emerge.
Cirrus Des Aigles ran an amazing race for a seven-year-old and Ruler Of The World bounced right back to his best after disappointing in the Arc two weeks ago.
Of the rest, Hillstar ran too keen early on, while Mukhadram, employing different tactics after being dropped out, stayed on one-paced to finish fifth, with Farhh’s stablemate Hunter’s Light fourth after making the running.
Bin Suroor said: ”He’s a great fighter – every year he has had problems. He won first time out as a two-year-old and was then injured. We’ve always had problems with him and he has to have a different programme of training to all the other horses in the stable.
“I know this horse well and he has class. The ground was the question mark for him today. He had not run on anything as soft as this.
”You have to look after him really well just to keep him sound. It wasn’t really easy to train him, if you put any pressure on you know what will happen.
“He looked the best ever today and he ran his greatest race. He is a great horse and I’m so happy.”
Aidan O’Brien said of Ruler Of The World: ”He has run a tremendous race against older horses and he’s another horse to look forward to next year over 10 furlongs or a mile and a half.”
Olympic Glory routed the opposition in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Richard Hannon’s three-year-old burst through a narrow gap between Top Notch Tonto and Aidan O’Brien’s Kingsbarns a furlong out and the race was over as a contest.
The supplemented Top Notch Tonto ran an unbelievable race to finish second, but Richard Hughes was able to coast home aboard the blinkered Olympic Glory (11 to 2) to win by three and a quarter lengths.
Those who believed Johnny Murtagh’s career in the saddle was winding down when he took out a licence to train earlier this season were proved wrong once again as the evergreen pilot steered his own Royal Diamond to a thrilling victory in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Top jockey at Royal Ascot and winner of the King George on Novellist, Murtagh has mastered the Berkshire track this year.
But this victory, in the colours of his main backer Andrew Tinkler, meant more than any other.
Sent off at 20 to 1 after a lifeless run in the Irish St Leger, Royal Diamond appeared to have plenty to find against the likes of the Gold Cup winner Estimate, owned by the Queen, but she never looked happy on the soft ground.
Harris Tweed appeared set for an all-the-way win after seeing off Eye Of The Storm inside the final furlong but Murtagh conjured a magical run from Royal Diamond to put his head in front where it mattered to pounce by a nose.
An emotional Murtagh said: “I think that this is the best day of my life. I can’t thank everybody enough for giving me the horses. I’ve got wonderful staff, a great wife and lovely kids – God is good.
“It’s been an amazing year for me, I really don’t know what to say.
“He has been a brilliant horse from day one and I am just privileged to ride so many great horses. I knew I’d won as soon as we reached the line. The horse is all heart.”
Reflecting on his dual role as jockey and trainer, Murtagh said: “I wouldn’t have taken it on if I didn’t think I could do it, and do it well. We have a good system at home, and today proves that I’m able to train and ride.”
The stewards took a dim view, however, and handed Murtagh a seven-day ban for misuse of the whip.
Billy Lee, on Eye Of The Storm in third, was handed nine days and Pat Smullen, the rider of the unplaced Pale Mimosa, was suspended seven days for the same offence.
Slade Power held off Jack Dexter in an exciting finish to the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.
Trainer Eddie Lynam, who won the King’s Stand Stakes with Sole Power at Royal Ascot in June, has huge strength in depth in the sprinting division and also saddled the third home, Viztoria.
The testing conditions were in Slade Power’s favour here as the 7 to 1 chance was always prominent down the centre of the track under Wayne Lordan.
He ended up drifting towards the rail when Jack Dexter challenged, but still seized the day by a neck.
Viztoria was another three and a quarter lengths behind the determined winner.
Seal Of Approval turned the Qipco British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes into a procession.
Stepping up massively in class, the James Fanshawe-trained filly (16 to 1) relished the testing conditions under George Baker, who was deputising for the injured Hayley Turner.
Turner suffered a nasty fall from Seal Of Approval in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster and the incident finished her season early.
Murtagh rode his own Belle De Crecy into second, but was some four lengths adrift.
The Oaks winner Talent travelled well into the straight but failed to quicken up and stayed on for third.
The Lewis Walsh-ridden Breton Rock (12 to 1) later stole the show in the Qipco Future Stars Apprentice Handicap.