DARTMOUTH will always have a special place in the Queen’s affections – this is where she first set eyes on Prince Philip in 1939 when he was a dashing young sailor.
The same applies to Her Majesty’s racehorse, Dartmouth, who lifted spirits on York’s Knavesmire with a last-gasp win in the Yorkshire Cup for stayers under Ryan Moore.
The race of the week at the Dante Festival, five horses were spread across the width of the track with Moore’s mount prevailing in the shadow of the stands from former St Leger winner Simple Verse – the mount of Oisin Murphy – on the far rail.
The pace-setting High Jinx, having his first race for 747 days, kept on in gritty fashion and was just a neck away to claim third spot on his first start for Great Habton trainer Tim Easterby.
Though the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, who celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary later this year, were not present, Her Majesty’s racing manager John Warren was on the phone to the victorious owner as he strode back to the winner’s enclosure to greet the Sir Michael Stoute-trained horse.
He also confirmed that Dartmouth will attempt to drop back in trip and defend the Hardwicke Stakes that he won at Royal Ascot last year rather than attempt the marathon Ascot Gold Cup that Her Majesty’s Estimate won so famously in 2013.
Dartmouth’s fourth Group win – he is now won more than £600,000 for the Royal coffers – and the normally reserved Moore eulogised: “He felt very easy the whole way, he’s got mile-and-a-half pace, he was just doing a little too much in stages.
“He travelled beautifully and is such an honest horse, but it didn’t help that I was apart from them and he’s done very well.
“That’s his fourth Group race now, we know what he is, he’s a very honest horse.”
Yet, while Moore appeared nerveless, it’s clear nerves clearly got the better of the aforementioned Warren.
He said: “I didn’t think he was going to get there because they were so wide. Ryan had this plan to come this side, so he knew what he was doing, but I don’t think he anticipated they were going to be so far away width wise as they were.
“It was hard to see from the stands whether he was going to get up. It was a remarkable ride, he’s an absolute professional.
“This horse is exceptionally brave, so tough and genuine. He always tries. Today proved he can pull out all the stops when he wants to.
“I suspect Sir Michael will be looking at the Hardwicke again. That’s his sort of race.”
He added: “The Gold Cup would be a big ask. The thing is he would give his all and may leave his whole season behind.
“My view is that he’s so good at what he’s doing there’s no need to find out.
“I’d say it will be the Hardwicke and then we might try and find out if he is a Cup horse.”
Also Royal Ascot-bound is Main Desire who took the opening Marygate Fillies’ Stakes in the colours of Yorkshire owner Steve Parkin.
After breaking the course record at Nottingham, the Michael Bell-trained two-year-old encountered much slower conditions this time but handled the ground well enough to retain her unbeaten record under Danny Tudhope.
“She’s gone really well at home since Nottingham. Prior to that run, she’d looked like a natural from day one and she’s a rocket,” said Bell. “It will either be the Queen Mary or the Albany at Royal Ascot. My gut feeling is the Queen Mary.”
Meanwhile, Boroughbridge jockey Paul Mulrennan held all the aces on Lord Yeats as Leyburn trainer Jedd O’Keeffe’s four-year-old made all the running in the Jorvik Handicap.
Despite being off the track for 224 days, Lord Yeats showed no signs of race-rustiness as he kept up the gallop through every yard of the mile-and-a-half journey to win by six lengths.
Mulrennan said: “Jedd told me he’d strengthened up and he did that very well. Something like the Old Newton Cup at Haydock might suit but he must have soft ground, he felt a very good horse and it’s very soft out there.”
O’Keeffe’s wife and assistant Andrea said: “We got our own way in front, but he was very impressive still. We’ve had to be patient, he’s had lots of entries but we needed the rain.”