ROYAL Ascot began with Richard Fahey’s Ribchester winning the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes – and it ended with Mark Johnston’s veteran Oriental Fox taking the concluding Queen Alexandra Stakes.
Five Yorkshire-trained winners at the meeting show the strength of Flat racing in this county, and were epitomised by Oriental Fox’s battling qualities in this two-mile, five-furlong contest.
Victorious in the same race in 2015 before finishing fourth last year, the nine-year-old showed great tenacity and resilience under Joe Fanning to fend off the young pretenders in the colours of Markus Graff.
“There’s nothing like it, having old horses like that, a nine-year-old gelding,” said Middleham-based Johnston, whose Dante winner Permian had won 24 hours previously.
“The owner talked about retiring him towards the end of last season and I said to him: ‘What else is the horse going to do? What’s he going to do but race?’
“Markus doesn’t like them to run too often but he’s a nine-year-old who could run every week. As he’s shown today, he’s far from finished. He doesn’t have many miles on the clock for his age.”
Fanning’s only worry came late on when Thomas Hobson, victorious in Tuesday’s Ascot Stakes, threw down the gauntlet.
However, the rider said: “Thomas Hobson came to me quite easily and this lad battles well –he always runs well here. My lad knuckled down and kept on really well – he felt really good today and I was very happy with him.”
Bring on 2018.