Circus Maximus prevails to land Queen Anne for Aidan O’Brien
Ryan Moore held off Frankie Dettori and Terebellum in a thrilling finish at Ascot
Circus Maximus ridden by Ryan Moore (right) wins the Queen Anne Stakes during day one of Royal Ascot. Photo: Edward Whitaker/PA Wire
Ryan Moore’s reputation for taciturnity always suggested he would have little problem with a behind closed doors Royal Ascot and he was typically powerful on Aidan O’Brien’s Circus Maximus to win a thrilling Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday.
The first day of racing’s most famously social event took place in an uncanny atmosphere replete with the extensive restrictions that have come depressingly familiar due to coronavirus.
Moore himself delivered a typically understated summation of such a singular environment without crowds, bookmakers, owners or the general sense of off-track frivolity that Royal Ascot has always been about.
“We’re very happy that we are here racing. It’s not the same. It (lack of a crowd) does detract from it all, but that’s the way of the world at the moment,” the Englishman shrugged.
On the track it was business as usual however, with Moore getting the better of a true heavyweight clash with his great friend and rival Frankie Dettori in the opening Group One race of the week.
It was a battle of the big boys in every way. Coolmore’s Circus Maximus faced down the Godolphin filly Terebellum. It was also O’Brien against Britain’s top trainer John Gosden. But it ultimately boiled down to Moore versus Dettori.
Two of the world’s top jockeys had it between themselves for over a furlong and slugged it out with a vengeance.
Dettori initially pounced on the blinkered Circus Maximus outside the distance and went almost half a length up. The O’Brien runner sported blinkers but his attitude has never been questioned and he and Moore responded with grim determination on the 4-1 favourite.
At the line there was just a head in it in a race deserving of the sort of raucous acclaim that a normal 70,000 attendance would accord it. This time Moore’s reception was a two-day ban from the stewards for his use of the whip.
Even O’Brien wasn’t able to welcome back the winner, his 71st Royal Ascot victory in all.
However he reported: “I think a mile is his trip. The problem is he is lazy and that is why he wears blinkers. It is only when the tempo is really high that he actually races so I think a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half trips don’t allow him to focus.
“Like a fighter, if you don’t get his blood up, he doesn’t really bother. The pace of the mile races allows him to get his blood up. I would say the Sussex Stakes is the race for him.”
That raises the intriguing prospect of a clash with the Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Siskin with Circus Maximus rated a 9-2 shot by some layers.
Dettori didn’t waste time getting revenge, using the Ribblesdale Stakes to uncover a prime contender for next month’s Epsom Oaks in Frankly Darling.
Despite racing keenly, the Frankel filly proved much too strong for the O’Brien pair Ennistymon and Passion. She earned 4-1 quotes for the rescheduled classic at Epsom.
Gosden secured a landmark 50th Royal Ascot success with this quickly made it 51 later in the day with Nazeef in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes.
He was, however, very aware of the wider context of this Royal Ascot.
“This country and many countries in the world have suffered horribly from this sinister disease; it has been devastating. Everything that people are going through, let alone the destruction of our economies and people losing jobs; it is a worldwide problem.
“So, to be able to come here in this very large amphitheatre in the fresh air, biosecurity – everything’s very tightly run, we are cleaning our hands all the time.
“It is a very safe place to be and it’s lovely to put on top-quality sport with the best racehorses in Europe, great athletes and great jockeys. We understand that it is a financial blow for the racecourses, but we are putting a show on and it’s great that it’s going out,” Gosden said.
O’Brien’s hopes for next month’s Epsom Derby got a knock when the odds-on Mogul could finish only fourth in the King Edward VII Stakes.
Instead it was the 18-1 outsider Pyledriver who emerged on top for the 2006 Derby winning pilot, Martin Dwyer.
Otherwise it was very much Jim Crowley’s day, the jockey riding a 118-1 hat-trick highlighted by Battaash winning the Kings Stand Stakes at the third attempt.
Runner up in the two previous years, the mercurial sprinter never looked in danger this time as he proved over two lengths too good for his stable companion Equilateral.
Crowley was also successful on Nazeef and Motakhayyel in the opening Buckingham Palace Handicap. All three of his winners were for owner, Sheikh Hamdan.
“It was redemption for Battaash today. He had a bit of unfinished business and he got it done,” said Crowley who is 4-1 from 25-1 to end the week top jockey.