Willie Mullins saves Irish blushes by winning the finale on day one of Royal Ascot with Belloccio

Henry Longfellow gets run down in closing stages of St James’s Palace Stakes by Curragh Guineas hero Rosallion

Belloccio, ridden by William Buick, on their way to winning the Copper Horse Handicap on the opening day of Royal Ascot. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

The king of the jumps Willie Mullins saved Irish blushes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday by saddling Belloccio to land the finale on day one of British flat racing’s most famous meeting.

William Buick guided the 4-1 shot to success in the Copper Horse Handicap, a race won in spectacular style a year previously by his stable companion Vauban, who goes for Gold Cup glory on Thursday.

It took Mullins’s Royal Ascot career tally to 10, a haul that’s the envy of most flat specialists, and underlined how potent a threat he is in the meeting’s lucrative stamina tests.

Buick had to be strong in the closing stages to overhaul the 40-1 shot Lmay, while Gavin Cromwell’s My Mate Mozzie had to settle for third.


There were certainly echoes of the ‘Mullins in the bumper’ winter staple as Belloccio made it two wins from two starts for the trainer. He won on his hurdling debut at Punchestown last month and his stamina won out.

“He didn’t break well but William did the best he could from his position, minded him, came wide and he stayed on,” Mullins said.

It was an Irish victory not before time as prior to it the only visitor from this country to even make the frame was Aidan O’Brien’s Henry Longfellow, who got run down inside the final furlong by last month’s Curragh 2,000 Guineas winner Rosallion.

Richard Hannon’s star emerged best of a clash between last month’s three major European Guineas heroes, but was put to the pin of his collar to emerge from the pack under jockey Sean Levey and edge out Henry Longfellow by a neck.

Jockey Sean Levey aboard Rosallion after winning the St James's Palace Stakes on day one of Royal Ascot. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

The French Guineas victor Metropolitan was third but Godolphin’s Newmarket winner Notable Speech, who started a 6-4 favourite, beat only one home.

“I think once I had him out in the open, I always thought I would pick the leader up,” said Levey. “This horse really has to have something to aim at, I think he showed that at the Curragh. As soon as I got him out there was always going to be plenty in the tank.

“I just really hope the that one day they go a really good gallop so that we get to see him really show his true potential. At the moment, he’s just showing how versatile he really is.”

Hannon, securing a ninth Royal Ascot success, one less than Mullins, nominated Rosallion as major a talent as ever passed through his famous yard and pointed to the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood as a future option.

That might also figure on Henry Longfellow’s radar after he stepped up considerably on a disappointing French Guineas effort.

“We think there’s more to come. He didn’t have much of a run in France, so that was his first real race this year,” said O’Brien. “It is really like a first time out for him, because France was a non-event. He is happy at a mile, but he could step up further. Ryan [Moore] was surprised. He said the winner came and got him, because he was running to the line.”

Tuesday’s major international success was the Australian sprinter Asfoora, who landed the newly titled King Charles III Stakes – formerly the King’s Stand – under jockey Oisín Murphy.

The mare was the sixth Australian horse to win the race and delivered trainer Henry Dwyer with a first Royal Ascot success on his first try.

Billy Loughnane, the rising star of the cross-channel jockey’s room, had a first Royal Ascot success as the 80-1 Rashabar landed the Coventry by a nose. Ballydoyle’s Camille Pissarro started a 4-1 favourite but managed only 11th.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column