Subjectivist earns trainer Mark Johnston a fourth Gold Cup

Tony Mullins’s 28-1 shot Princess Zoe comes home second in big race at Royal Ascot

Subjectivist, the horse on his knees just six days before, decisively ended hopes for Stradivarius and a record-equalling Gold Cup four-timer at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

For once Frankie Dettori fluffed his Ascot lines as Stradivarius met with interference on the turn into the straight and the 5-6 favourite could never recover, eventually finishing only fourth.

Instead it was the popular Tony Mullins-trained mare Princess Zoe who wound up chasing Subjectivist home at big odds of 28-1.

In a race containing a pair of Aidan O’Brien-trained Derby winners, as well as a bone fide staying champion, Princess Zoe would have been a fairytale success for Mullins’s relatively small operation.

In contrast Subjectivist is trained by Mark Johnston who has saddled more winners than anyone in British racing history.

However, the Gold Cup has never been just another race for the Scot who had won it three times before.

His hopes of a fourth must have flashed before his eyes last Friday when Subjectivist fell over on a road sustaining cuts to his knees and hocks that were still visible at Ascot.

That no serious damage was done was obvious the way he scooted around Ascot's marathon two and a half mile challenge, getting a tow from the Ballydoyle outsider Amhran Na Bhfiann to the turn, where Joe Fanning kicked on decisively.

The 50-year-old rider, originally from Roundwood in Co Wicklow, continued this season’s run of top-flight success for veteran jockeys and secured himself a third career Group One.

“Around five [furlongs)]out, and before the home bend, I was able to get breathers into him and fill him up. I thought it would take a very good one to get by him,” Fanning said.

Stradivarius has been a staying great but as Fanning made his move a fading Amhran Na Bhfiann fell into Dettori’s lap and any chance of a four-in-a-row vanished.

"It didn't go to plan," said a rueful John Gosden afterwards. "I thought the winner was most impressive but we were a long way back, had the filly beside us [Princess Zoe] and couldn't get out."

An opportunity for a more conclusive test of merit between Subjectivist and Stradivarius could come in the Goodwood Cup

A repeat tilt the Prix Du Cadran in October is the long-term aim for Princess Zoe who put paid to fears that ground conditions might be too quick for her.

“Everything will revolve around the Cadran with whatever presents itself beforehand. I think we’ve been beaten by a great champion and she’s run the race of her life,” Mullins said.

“The owners have expressed a view to consider the Cheltenham festival. She’s jumped a few on the ‘q-t’ and seems to enjoy it. But it’s whether her legs would stand it and it’s just a thought,” he added.

Out of luck in the Gold Cup, Aidan O’Brien had to settle for second in both the Hampton Court Stakes and the King George V Handicap.

In the latter race topweight Sir Lamorak never looked comfortable but flew home in the straight only for the 4-1 favourite to come up a neck shy of Surefire.

Roman Empire couldn’t go with the 11-8 favourite Mohaafeth in the closing stages of the Hampton Court, although his cause wasn’t helped by interference from the winner.

Mohaafeth's jockey Jim Crowley subsequently got a six-day suspension for careless riding.

Joseph O'Brien's Liffey River was another Irish runner-up on day three, finding Perotto half a length too good in the Britannia. The winner was a first success at the meeting for Derby-winning trainer Marcus Tregoning in 18 years.