Tactical’s hard-fought win in the bet365 European Free Handicap under champion jockey Oisin Murphy was the first in Her Majesty’s colours since Prince Philip’s death last Friday.
It was also a welcome return to form for the Andrew Balding-trained colt who won at last year’s Royal Ascot meeting, which the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh watched from Windsor Castle due to lockdown, before disappointing in subsequent runs.
But fortune was on Tactical’s side after Murphy’s mount ran into trouble before the pacesetting Naval Crown drifted off the running rail under William Buick, leaving sufficient room for the Royal runner to pounce.
“Our thoughts are with the Queen and her family,” said Murphy who was sporting a black armband. “He’s clearly tough and he’s a ball of muscle. He’s trained well but he’s not been off the bridle and hopefully he’ll come on for this.
“Normally when you get stopped here it’s the end of your race, but watching the replay it didn’t perhaps seem as abrupt as it felt.
“Newmarket’s uphill finish means it’s the slowest part of the race which meant I was able to catch William. As he relaxes so well I wouldn’t rule out a mile, but at this time of year there are better options over seven.”
John Warren, the Queen’s bloodstock adviser, said: “Andrew and I had been discussing with the Queen about his trip and we needed to find out if he was a Jersey horse, a St James’s Palace one or Commonwealth Cup horse.
“Today was a learning mission to see if we’d come back to six (furlongs), but he’s proved seven is no problem so I think all roads lead to Ascot for perhaps the Jersey. He’ll probably have an entry in the St James’s.
“It’s been our imponderable over the winter why his form tailed off, there were mitigating circumstances in the Morny and perhaps he lost his way after that. He’d been working very well at home and Andrew was very happy with him. He’s trained on nicely.”
Meanwhile, Buick will be hoping for better luck when Master Of The Seas bids to enhance his Qipco 2000 Guineas credentials in today’s Craven Stakes at Newmarket.
It is three years since Buick, and his trainer Charlie Appleby, won the 2018 Craven in spectacular style with Masar before the colt landed the Epsom Derby just six weeks later.
And Appleby believes Master Of The Seas will improve for a recent run at Meydan when beaten.
“He is a horse that we went to Dubai with knowing that our aim was to be here for the Craven,” explained the trainer.
“As we know it is a long season whatever he was going to do out there we were hopeful that we would see plenty of improvement which we have seen.
“He has come out of the race well and has done well. He shipped back into England a week ago and we are looking forward to the Craven.
“He has got some great form. He won his maiden here then he won the Superlative on the July Course and he wasn’t disgraced in the National Stakes, where I feel he didn’t show his true running as he was very keen early on.”
Appleby feels a return to a quicker surface will help his other runner La Barrosa.
Meanwhile, York’s Dante Stakes is the intended Derby prep race for Middleham trainer Mark Johnson’s Epsom prospect Gear Up, a Group One winner in France last autumn when landing the Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Harry Skelton is now four clear of North Yorkshire’s Brian Hughes in the race to be champion jumps jockey following a high-profile double at Cheltenham courtesy of Faivoir and Proschema.
Hughes then cut the deficit to three with a win on Domaine De L’Isle.
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