The Fugue takes honours in feature event to deprive top-rated Treve
French raider unable to quicken and bridge gap to Gosden-trained runner
Anthem Alexander ridden by Pat Smullen on the way to victory in the Queen Mary Stakes on Day Two of the Royal Ascot festival. Photograph: David Davies/PA
A 17-1 double with Mustajeeb and Anthem Alexander at Royal Ascot yesterday may not help towards Pat Smullen’s pursuit of a seventh jockeys title at home but did confirm on the biggest international stage how the Offaly rider is at the peak of his game right now.
Dermot Weld’s string have been in rare form since the season kicked off and his old ally Smullen has already notched up forty three winners in Ireland, well clear of Joseph O’Brien who faces a major task in retaining his jockeys championship despite having the power of Ballydoyle behind him.
What O’Brien knows better than most is that if he is to overhaul his rival, he’s going to have to earn it because Smullen doesn’t cough anything up through silly mistakes.
Yesterday’s featured Prince Of Wales’s Stakes saw The Fugue reverse Breeders Cup form with Magican, and relegate the odds-on Treve to only third, in a display that had a redemptive tone for jockey William Buick who looked to have been mugged by Ryan Moore at Santa Anita seven months previously.
Unassuming Irishman That’s a long time to wait to scratch a nagging
“if only” itch, far longer than James Doyle endured before another John Gosden star, Kingman, won the James’s Palace on Tuesday after an unlucky run in the Newmarket Guineas.
But while the one thing lacking from Smullen’s tally so far this season is a Group One, what yesterday’s Jersey-Queen Mary Stakes double illustrated yet again is the consistency of excellence the quietly unassuming Irishman continues to exhibit.
No jockey gets it right all the time but Smullen getting it wrong when it really counts is something of a collector’s item. Tarfasha had to concede to Tagroodha in the Epsom Oaks a couple of weeks ago but only after having every chance to overhaul the other Sheikh Hamdan-owned star.
It was another all-Hamdan finish to the Jersey but this time Mustajeeb was too powerful for Muwaaray, form that yet again boosted Kingman who trounced the Weld colt in the Irish Guineas.
“Kingman is an outstanding miler and we were beaten fair and square in the Irish Guineas. But I thought this horse would win today and he it well,” said Weld. “He’s a good Group winner over a mile and he’ll probably go back to a mile.”
Mustajeeb had no trouble dropping to seven furlongs yesterday but Smullen’s follow-up on Anthem Alexander was all about raw speed as Eddie Lynam’s well-backed filly travelled best throughout and then showed an admirable opportunity to hold off Tiggy Wiggy and Ken Condon’s outsider, Newsletter.
“She is very, very quick and I actually got there too soon because the gap I was aiming at was about to close. She could have given up but she’s 100 per cent genuine,” said Smullen who was notching his sixth career Royal Ascot winner.
“Eddie Lynam looks to have another good sprinter. And of course without Dermot Weld none of it would happen for me. This is everything. Royal Ascot is the pinnacle. To ride two winners in one day, one after the other, is a pretty good feeling,” he added.
Nothing much happened right for the brilliant Arc winner Treve on her first trip out of France.
The flying filly had to settle for third behind another top filly in The Fugue. Aidan O’Brien’s Magician split the pair but even in defeat it was hard to switch the focus from the beaten favourite.
“She went down [to the start] really, really bad,” explained Treve’s rider Frankie Dettori. “I was never comfortable. I was following The Fugue, but struggling to keep up with her. I was never in my comfort zone.”
‘Absolutely creamed’ Buick’s delight at The Fugue securing a fourth top-flight victory was obvious since it has not always been plain
sailing for the partnership who looked desperately unlucky losers in the 2012 Oaks.
“She got absolutely creamed that day and should have won but she remains a very brave, lovely filly,” said Gosden who intends to make hay while the summer sun shines in races like the Eclipse and the Juddmonte.
“Treve is a wondrous filly and I wouldn’t go near her on soft ground in the Arc. I think she’s unbeatable. But this is summer and a mile-and-a-quarter.”