Stoute becomes most successful Royal Ascot trainer with latest triumphs
Poet’s Word And Expert Eye take trainer to 77 winners after been tied with the late Henry Cecil on 75
Expert Eye’s jockey James McDonald celebrates winning the Jersey Stakes with trainer Michael Stoute at Royal Action. Photograph: Reuters
Royal Ascot is famous for fashion but Wednesday’s on-trend was history as Sir Michael Stoute became the meeting’s winning-most trainer ever.
Tied with the late Sir Henry Cecil on 75 winners since his last success in 2016, Stoute set a new record when Poet’s Word dramatically downed the odds-on favourite Cracksman in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
For good measure the legendary trainer moved on to 77 after Expert Eye landed the concluding Jersey Stakes.
That was a stylish display perfectly in turn with how the 11-2 Poet’s Word had earlier secured his maiden Group One success in the most valuable race of the week.
Inevitably however it was all about their 72 year old trainer who remains a timeless figure at the top of this famously fickle sport.
The first of the 77 came in 1977, a year when punk snarled, Elvis died, Vincent O’Brien was in his pomp and Aidan O’Brien was still in primary school.
Earlier on the Day Two card O’Brien had reached number 62 of his own Royal Ascot career with the 100-30 winner Kew Gardens and there’s a statistical remorselessness to the Irishman’s progress that suggests Stoute might be just keeping the record warm for him.
The fluctuating nature of such records was probably on Stoute’s mind too when paying tribute to the late Sir Henry Cecil, the other Newmarket maestro who dominated racing for so long, but whose tally was finally overhauled. However, if Stoute holds onto the record forever, or succumbs to the rule that records are made to be broken, his status as one of British racing’s most significant ever figures is assured forever.
Four years after that maiden Royal Ascot success, the son of a Barbados policeman, who left the Caribbean for England in 1964 and began training in 1972, masterminded the racing career of that ultimate equine legend, Shergar.
That ensured Stoute’s place in racing folklore. But he has spent three and a half decades since embellishing it to an extent that this latest landmark felt like an entirely appropriate valedictory stamp.
“It means a lot. Henry’s record was formidable because there were only four days of Royal Ascot in most of his career,” said Stoute, generously omitting how the same timeframe mostly applied to him too. “I’m just happy for it to happen.”
What definitively didn’t happen to spoil the occasion was a performance by Cracksman to justify his reputation.
Frankie Dettori never appeared happy on Europe’s highest rated star, used words such as “lethargic” and concluded: “He’s not the same animal I’ve been riding in the Spring.”
Cracksman’s trainer John Gosden still looks set to point the four year old at the King George next month where another clash with Poet’s Word could be on the cards.
“We will get him home and sharpen him up. We will look into it before the King George as that is how the play the game,” Gosden said. “The ability is there but I didn’t feel he was generous with it today.”
Later Stoute’s famous patience paid off in spades as the hitherto disappointing Expert Eye routed his opposition under New Zealand jockey James McDonald.
Ireland’s haul for the week moved to three as David Marnane saddled his second Royal Ascot winner with Settle For Bay in the Royal Hunt Cup. Billy Lee’s mount landed 16-1 odds in style to justify some long-term planning.
“We knew three quarters of the way through last year he was this sort of class,” Marnane said. “It’s one thing to have it but another to get him here. He broke his pelvis last year so he has done remarkably well to do what he’s done.”