Irish family affair at Royal Ascot as Colin Keane rides Crystal Black to victory for his father

Donnacha O’Brien lands Coronation Stakes with Porta Fortuna from Ballydoyle hope Opera Singer

Colin Keane after winning the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes aboard Crystal Black on day four of Royal Ascot. Photograph: John Walton/PA

For a while on Friday Royal Ascot’s famed winner’s enclosure almost felt like an Irish family front room as emotions more akin to Cheltenham joyfully ran riot.

If familiar restraint ran through celebrations for Donnacha O’Brien’s Group One success with Porta Fortuna in the Coronation Stakes, the brakes were off with a vengeance after Crystal Black’s Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap victory for Colin Keane and his father Gerry.

Ireland’s champion jockey finally broke his Royal Ascot duck a year ago, but despite Classic successes he acclaimed victory for his father on the grandest stage of all as the best kick he’s ever got out of a winner.

For his part, the veteran Co Meath trainer admitted he’d barely hoped to get a Cheltenham success in his long career, never mind Ascot, but his progressive 11-1 shot routed 18 opponents with a withering wide run up the famous straight.

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It was a fairytale outcome too for owners, the four-member Wear The Pink Ribbon Syndicate, who raise money for the Irish Cancer Society, and who made a happy mockery of Ascot’s more staid instincts, even serenading their jockey in the number-one spot.

Crystal Black was a 35,000-guineas purchase in 2022 and this was his fourth success in a row.

“It is the most emotional I’ve felt about riding a winner. It is very special riding one for my father at Royal Ascot, and a great bunch of owners. They might not get home for a while, to be honest, but they’re dead right!” said Colin Keane.

“Dad only has a small number of horses, and we’re mainly a breaking and pre-training yard now, so to have a horse like him in the yard is brilliant,” he added.

Keane snr’s verdict on the ride was: “He’s not too bad, is he? He gave him a great ride, knows the horse inside out, just lets him creep into the race.”

It was all much more recognisable territory for the O’Brien family as Porta Fortuna added to an Albany victory from a year ago, her 25-year-old trainer edging out his father in second with Opera Singer.

Tom Marquand guided the 7-2 shot to a length success, building on the promise of her 1,000 Guineas second to Elmalka, who this time could only finish fourth.

“I think a mile is probably her maximum because she’s got so much speed. On a turning track like this, Tom was able to sit on her and use that turn of foot that she has.

“Races like the Falmouth might be in the plan; the owners are an American group so I’d say an end-of-year plan would be the Breeders’ Cup,” said O’Brien who is only one behind his brother Joseph in Royal Ascot-trained winners.

Aidan O’Brien is eagerly anticipating stepping Opera Singer up in trip but had earlier sprung a potentially exceptional filly as Fairy Godmother came from an apparently impossible position behind a wall of horses to land the Albany Stakes.

“I gave Fairy Godmother an impossible task and she got me out of a hole. It’s incredible that she was able to win from that position, so all credit to her,” said Ryan Moore. “Down at the start, she looked different class. She suggested that before she ran, and when she won last time. Today, that was a big performance.”

Friday’s other Group One, the Commonwealth Cup, produced an impressive display by Inisherin for Yorkshire-based Irish trainer Kevin Ryan.

“I think he is just going to get quicker and better at this job. He’s a joy to train, an absolute legend,” said Ryan.

A first French winner at Royal Ascot in five years came as Calandagan ran away with the King Edward VII Stakes.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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