THE delight of David O’Meara after Amazing Maria’s shock win on day two of Royal Ascot could not have provided a greater contrast with Kevin Ryan’s despair after his rejuvenated stable star The Grey Gatsby narrowly lost the feature Prince of Wales’s Stakes in the tightest finish of the week.
These two North Yorkshire trainers both know that racing is the most predictable sport and this was illustrated by their magnanimous reactions to victory and defeat; O’Meara was his modest self after the Duke of Cambridge Stakes, while Ryan was full of credit for his horse after silencing the doubters.
It is also emblematic of the revival of Flat racing in Yorkshire that locally-trained horses are not only competing for their sport’s most glittering prizes but winning these top contests on a regular basis.
Nawton-based O’Meara has trained two Group One winners since his debut Royal Ascot success with Louis The Pious 12 months ago and the win of Amazing Maria – owned and bred by ever-enthusiastic Yorkshire entrepreneur Sir Robert Ogden – confirmed the former jump jockey’s burgeoning reputation for revitalising horses which have lost their way.
Amazing Maria was trained by Ed Dunlop until April when the filly was switched to the O’Meara stable. Two third-place finishes, at Ascot and the Curragh, put the four-year-old spot on for this fillies and mares’ race as she came from last to first under James Doyle to beat course specialist Rizeena with odds-on favourite Integral a well-beaten fifth.
In a twist of irony, it was Doyle’s success aboard Rizeena on the corresponding day two years ago that helped to take his career to a new level and the obvious choice to replace O’Meara’s luckless stable jockey Danny Tudhope who remains on the injury sidelines.
“My filly was push button today. It was a great effort from the whole team and I was just a small part in it,” said the winning rider.
However, the victorious trainer had given the tactics a lot of consideration in his quiet, understated manner.
“We brought her here for a fillies’ handicap on her first run for me, and she travelled well and arrived a little too soon, then she ran in Ireland and didn’t get much cover but finished off well, so we thought we would have another chance up this straight mile,” observed O’Meara.
“If you hold her up she finishes well as long as she doesn’t get to the front too soon. When she was sent to me we thought she was a really good filly and she ran a good race first time for us when we didn’t really know her that well. It was special last year to have our first Royal Ascot winner and it’s great to get another one on the board.”
As for The Grey Gatsby, last season’s Dante and French Derby winner did not enjoy the clearest run under jockey Jamie Spencer in a messy affair and found himself boxed in as the field turned for home.
This allowed Pat Smullen to seize the initiative on the Dermot Weld-trained Free Eagle and the move appeared to be a winning one until Spencer extricated his mount and finished like the proverbial train. For one improbable moment, it looked like The Grey Gatsby’s nostril was in front – but Free Eagle held on to the obvious relief of Weld and Smullen who are hopeful of further success today with Forgotten Rules in the Ascot Gold Cup.
As for the aforementioned Ryan, he was relieved that his gallant grey showed his true class after a second-placed finish at the Dubai World Cup meeting was followed up by a slightly disappointing effort in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland.
The Grey Gatsby holds eye-catching entries for next month’s Group One Coral-Eclipse Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, while Ryan has made no secret of his desire to become the first Yorkshire trainer to win York’s Juddmonte International.
“In the first two furlongs I thought they were going to go a good pace but then they half pulled it up and he got locked up,” he said. “In fairness, Jamie gave him a fantastic ride, it was a great horse race and he’s back to his best. Fair dos to the winner, it was a great training performance but I’m not disappointed, I know the horse is back to his best and we can look forward.”
OSAILA’S last stride win in the concluding Sandringham Handicap was a 50th career success at Royal Ascot for Frankie Dettori, racing’s 2015 renaissance man.