IT was a day of firsts for an overwhelmed Tom Tate as Prince of Johanne galloped to an unlikely Royal Hunt Cup win.
Not only was it the Tadcaster trainer’s first Royal Ascot triumph in a distinguished career but, even more surprisingly, Tate had gone 24 races in the 2012 campaign without a win until jockey John Fahy timed the horse’s run to perfection.
The surprising nature of this long-overdue success on both counts was illustrated by the fact that Prince of Johanne was becoming the first horse for more than six decades to add the Hunt Cup to the Cambridgeshire, the prestigious Newmarket handicap that Tate’s horse won last autumn. The famous double was last completed by Sterope in 1949.
“I only train good horses,” joked Tate, brother-in-law to the Yorkshire training legend Michael Dickinson and whose victories as a jump jockey included wins on horses of the calibre of Silver Buck, Bregawn and Badsworth Boy.
“He’s a grand horse and he likes the mile and fast ground. He showed a lot of speed to win the Cambridgeshire and his form is there. I read in the newspaper that it was 1949 the last time a horse won the Cambridgeshire and this race, so that was a bit of a dampener for our hopes.”
Asked about future plans, Tate said: “Let’s live for today.”
Fahy made the most of his stands side draw to win by half a length from Excellent Guest who was ridden by Tom Queally of Frankel fame.
The up-and-coming Irish jockey is attached to the Berkshire yard of Clive Cox and said he was more used to watching the Royal Ascot television unfold on television.
The only downside was Fahy being the recipient of a seven-day ban for using his whip 12 times. He was also fined £1,100.
In complete contrast to Tate, Aidan O’Brien cannot stop training big race winners. His outsider Ishvana, owned and bred by his wife Anne-Marie, landed the Jersey Stakes before So You Think was an emphatic winner of the 150th anniversary running of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Briefly, it looked like the Queen’s Carlton House, ridden by Ryan Moore, could pull off a famous victory in Diamond Jubilee year, but the victor – ridden by the trainer’s Derby-winning teenage son Joseph – was always travelling with ominous ease, as the Duke of Edinburgh observed through his binoculars from the Royal box.
This was the 10th Group One victory for the former Australian superstar who suffered a shock odds-on reverse in this 10-furlong contest a year ago.
Gracious O’Brien, recording his fifth big race triumph since acquiring the horse from the yard of Australian racing icon Bart Cummings, conceded that he had erred in looking to run So You Think over a mile and a half, hence the decision to step down in trip.
“We expected a big run (yesterday), we felt like we had him in a place that he was never in before with us, which is incredible,” said the master trainer.
“I think we’ve had him a year and a half and it’s taken me that long to learn how to train him. We went back and listened to what everybody was saying about him, listened to what Bart was saying and telling us what to do and what not to do.
“We listened at the end. I was probably over-working the horse and galloping the speed out of him instead of letting him be natural. We knew we only had a few runs left before retiring to stud, maybe (yesterday) and Sandown (Eclipse) to get him back, so we listened to them and Joseph and the lads were confident it was going to come.”
O’Brien’s wins sandwiched a battling win for Joviality, York’s 2011 Musidora Stakes heroine, in the Windsor Forest Stakes.
Owned by Princess Haya of Jordan – Mrs Sheikh Mohammed – it was a poignant triumph for trainer John Gosden and jockey William Buick as they come to terms with the torment of The Nile’s fatal fall in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday.
Joviality held off the late challenge of Sir Henry Cecil’s Chachamaide, with Gosden saying: “It was a thrilling performance. She wants a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter so there are some nice races for her like the Nassau Stakes and the Prix de l’Opera. We had a difficult day (Tuesday) and it’s a strange game – it’s a game of vicissitudes.”
As for in-form Buick, a Northern Racing College graduate, he was just relieved to be riding after describing Tuesday as one of “the saddest” days that he has experienced on a racecourse.
“I could very easily have ended up seriously injured when The Nile broke a leg – I still don’t know how the horse managed to keep upright. It was only his courage that stopped us turning over. I hate to think what the outcome would have been,” he said solemnly.