Caravaggio proves to be a Royal Ascot masterpiece
Winter completes Group One double for O’Brien in Coronation Stakes
Ryan Moore on Caravaggio wins the Commonwealth Cup on day four of Royal Ascot. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Caravaggio has been acclaimed by Aidan O’Brien as “the fastest horse we have ever had” after the unbeaten star kicked off a grey Group One double for Ireland’s champion trainer at Royal Ascot.
The brilliant sunshine from earlier in the week had vanished at racing’s most glamorous fixture but the only thing grey about Caravaggio and the superb Coronation Stakes-winning filly Winter proved to be their colour.
Both justified odds-on favouritism in style under jockey Ryan Moore to take O’Brien to four winners for the week.
At 4-9 Winter started an even hotter favourite than her stable companion Churchill did on Tuesday. Unlike the colt this was a dual-Guineas winner who didn’t fluff her Royal Ascot lines and she led home an O’Brien 1-2-3 with Roly Poly and Hydrangea filling the frame.
Racing’s commercial realities however meant the importance of Caravaggio’s defeat of the Godolphin pair Harry Angel and Blue in the Commonwealth Cup was lost on no one, especially not his Coolmore Stud owners.
The 5-6 favourite, a son of the successful US sire Scat Daddy who died in 2015, maintained his unbeaten record with a narrow but decisive success which makes Caravaggio a prime stallion prospect when he eventually retires to the breeding shed.
“We were unlucky to lose Scat Daddy and hopefully this fellow will take his place,” said the Coolmore supremo, John Magnier.
“Aidan has always said Caravaggio was one of the quickest he ever had. He is a better racehorse than Scat Daddy and it’s a cross we need. It’s just fortunate he has come at the right time, like the cavalry!” Magnier added.
The trainer wasn’t making any qualification about Caravaggio’s singular status on the back of this vital top-flight three year old success.
“He’s very quick. I’d be happier at two furlongs than six furlongs with this fella. He’s the fastest horse we have ever had,” declared O’Brien who outlined an ambitious long term plan that illustrates how global a commodity potential top class stallions can be.
The first running of the Everest Sprint will take in Sydney on October 14th and is the world’s richest turf race with a Aus$10 million prize-fund.
Slots in the race were for sale at $600,000 and since Coolmore are a huge player in Australian bloodstock the Randwick highlight could represent a perfect shop-window ‘Down Under’ for their new superstar.
“The lads have a plan in their mind that he might go to Australia for the Everest so we have to be very conscious now if we want him to last for the autumn,” O’Brien added.
Nevertheless Caravaggio could take on older horses for the first time in next month’s July Cup at Newmarket for which he is already as short as 11-10.
Winter has her own long-term international target in November’s Breeders Cup at the Del Mar track near San Diego in California. But she could be kept busy in the meantime.
“There’s a race in three weeks time, the Falmouth, so we’ll see how her training keeps going. She’s had four quick enough races but she’s enjoying it. She’ll get further later on so we might look at races like the Nassau,” O’Brien forecast. “But all roads lead to Del Mar.”
Winter emulated the top filly Attraction who completed the hat-trick of English and Irish 1,000 Guineas, plus the Coronation, in 2004. Winter also put her trainer on 302 career Group/Grade One victories over jumps and on the flat.
“All these Group One races are hard to win and I don’t ever think about it so we just go from one race to another,” O’Brien said.