Unlike Frankel and So You Think who went for Royal Ascot glory too early, with the latter caught on the line, Nathaniel’s victory in the King Edward VII Stakes was never in doubt once Buick kicked for home off the final bend.
Vindicating the decision to bypass the Epsom Derby because of unsuitably fast ground, the 11-4 favourite powered clear to beat the staying-on Fiorente by five lengths.
The colt is now 11-4 for Doncaster’s St Leger – the extra two furlongs on Town Moor should not prove a challenge provided, says the winning rider, that there is no jar in the ground.
This was a landmark day for 22-year-old Buick, a Northern Racing College graduate. His first Royal Ascot winner since Dark Missile won the 2008 Wokingham Handicap, he completed a memorable 48-1 double when 12-1 chance Beachfire landed the Wolfreton Handicap.
“To have two winners in a row here at Royal Ascot is great,” said the mud-splattered rider.
The indications are that Nathaniel will have just one race before seeking Classic glory, with York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes a likely target as the Gosden stable look to replicate the St Leger triumph of Arctic Cosmos at Doncaster last September. However, next week’s Irish Derby could come into the frame if the rain continues to fall.
Suspended from racing today, Buick settled the sweating Nathaniel before the start and then had time to admire his riding on the big screen as the combination cruised home. His victory was that emphatic.
“The sweating had no effect on him. He just wants to get on with it and that is just him,” said the jockey, who politely declined the offer to perform a duet when he received his prize from singer Dame Shirley Bassey.
Nathaniel’s Classic credentials were later endorsed by Gosden. He said: “The Leger is the last Classic so we have to start thinking about it as it comes up quite quickly.
“He’s a very good horse – he loved the ground and he stays well. I think he and the one that won for Michael Owen (Brown Panther) are legitimate favourites for the Leger. The Voltigeur is a strong possibility now.”
As for Beachfire, the bottom weight was stone last and only came to life when faced with a wall of horses in the home straight. It was particularly satisfying for his owner, Princess Haya of Jordan, as her husband, Sheikh Mohammed, owned the runner-up Lost In the Moment, who looked the certain winner until Buick pounced. “It was so much fun watching the race,” she said.
Gosden and Buick’s Joviality, a recent York winner, were narrowly run out of the places in the Coronation Stakes as Immortal Verse came with a late charge to land the spoils for France, with Richard Fahey’s Barefoot Lady a creditable third for the out of sorts Malton stable.
Middleham trainer Mark Johnston’s Namibian, the 7-2 favourite, had to survive a stewards’ inquiry to keep the Queen’s Vase after the horse, ridden by in-form Thrisk jockey Silvestre de Sousa interfered with Tom Queally’s mount Solar Sky in the closing stages.
It was de Sousa’s 50th victory this season and his first at Royal Ascot.
Though he later received a three-day ban for interference, the Thirsk rider admitted: “It is worth it for the win. They said I interfered with the other horse, but he went ahead of me. It’s one of those things that happen in racing.”
Johnston, winning the race for the sixth time, said the St Leger might be a target for the victor.
Today’s highlight is the Golden Jubilee Stakes where sprinter Kingsgate Native is tipped to repeat his victory of 2008 – soft going is likely to put paid to the chances of Godolphin’s highly-rated Delegator.
Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, the horse runs in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud, which is also responsible for Sir Mark Prescott’s filly Hooray, who will relish conditions.
In a ferociously competitive Wokingham Handicap, Mick Easterby’s Hoof It could be the best of the Yorkshire contenders. A winner at York’s Dante meeting, he’ll again be ridden by Kieren Fallon while golfer Lee Westwood, one of Hoof It’s owners, will be an interested observer from the US Open.
Gold Cup-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien bids to round his Royal Ascot off with another big winner when the potentially high-class Await The Dawn tackles the Hardwicke Stakes.