Merchant Navy win caps great Royal Ascot for O’Brien and Moore
Jockey secures Diamond Jubilee Stakes on final day of the meeting
Ryan Moore (centre, purple colours) drives Merchant Navy to the line to win The Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Merchant Navy just prevailed in a desperately tight finish to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the feature race on the final day of Royal Ascot.
Sent off at 4-1, Aidan O’Brien’s Australian import was all out at the line under Ryan Moore – who was crowned top rider for an eighth time – to hold French raider City Light, getting the nod by a short head.
In a cosmopolitan finish, American runner Bound For Nowhere was third, having blazed a trail from an early stage, but Harry Angel, the 5-2 favourite, beat just one home.
O’Brien, who took top trainer honours for the ninth time, said: “He was travelling very well and we knew looking at him that Ryan was very happy on him.
“I think Ryan was hoping not to get there too early on him and then he got a little bit of a bump and Ryan said it took him a bit of time to re-balance.
“We thought it was an impossible task for him here as he was 12lb worse off than he would have been in Australia.
“He’s being treated as a four-year-old here and he’s really a three-year-old. I came here prepared that he couldn’t win, reading what everyone was saying.”
Asked whether Merchant Navy could run in the July Cup at Newmarket before returning to Australia to take up stallion duties, the trainer added: “He is booked to go back home, but wouldn’t it be great? [to go for the July Cup]
“The plan was that he’d run here and then go back to Australia, as I think there’s a lot of mares waiting on him there.”
Clive Cox said of the vanquished Harry Angel: “His leg was still in the stall when it opened. He’s not straightforward in the stalls, as you can see. It’s a shame it’s happened and it obviously affected the whole day.
“He’s got a nasty puncture wound, which we’re concerned enough about. He wasn’t sound behind when he came in. Not dreadful, but he wasn’t sound.
“I’m just sorry for everyone and it’s a shame, but I hope he’ll be fine.”
Crystal Ocean looks set to head for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes after providing Michael Stoute with an 11th victory in the Hardwicke Stakes, completing a fine week for the Newmarket handler.
Moore positioned the 4-7 favourite on the heels of last year’s winner Idaho for much of the way and when he faded out of contention early in the home straight, Crystal Ocean kicked clear for a comprehensive two-and-a-half-length victory.
Stoute set a new best for career winners at the meeting when he overtook the late Henry Cecil on Wednesday and ended the five days with four victories.
He said: “It was straightforward. He is so uncomplicated you can do what you like with him. He is a relaxed horse. It is so far, so good.
“We will take him home and look at him for a little while, but I expect that [King George] is likely. We will take it step by step.
“I think we will get brave now. The King George is likely, but we will get home and think about it.”
Dascombe’s charge is a son of the yard’s 2012 Queen Mary Stakes heroine Ceiling Kitty, who died after giving birth to this Camelot colt.
Andrew Black, of winning owners Chasemore Farm, said: “This is so special. I’ve been more emotionally attached to this horse than any horse I’ve ever had.
“The night he was born was such an incredibly difficult, painful night. I’m massively emotional.”
Arthur Kitt’s victory from Nate The Great had denied Archie Watson a first Royal meeting winner, but the fledgling trainer did not have to wait too much longer for the landmark moment, as Soldier’s Call (12-1) gained top honours in the Windsor Castle Stakes.
He said: “After Nate I was delighted, but I was gutted.
“This is only our second year training and our second year with runners here. After Nate’s run I thought I might have to wait a bit longer than an hour for that first winner!”
Dreamfield was all the rage for the Wokingham Handicap, but John Gosden’s unexposed sprinter was nailed close home by the Brian Meehan-trained Bacchus, who was having his first run since October and was returned at 33-1.