Even over in England, you cannot get far from Justify.
John Gunther, the Canadian who bred America’s latest Triple Crown winner, found himself in another winner’s circle Tuesday morning. This time he was there with Prince Harry and newlywed bride Meghan Markle. That is what happens when you breed and own a Royal Ascot winner.
Without Parole – an undefeated colt sired by the undefeated miler Frankel – earned a half-length victory as the favorite in the $658,848 Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes, a right-turn mile for 3-year-olds.
“It’s a dream come true,” Gunther said. “In all the 20 years I have been coming to Royal Ascot, my dream was just to have a horse run at Royal Ascot. Then we start in a Group 1 and do it? I don’t know what to say.”
It was one of three races won on the opening day of the royal meeting by the trainer-jockey tandem of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori.
Gunther was not supposed to provide the North American highlight Tuesday. The script was written for Lady Aurelia. But she disappointed in her bid to three-peat for trainer Wesley Ward, finishing seventh in the $658,848 Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes.
So for racing fans waking up early on this side of the pond, the stage was wide open for the breeder who sold Justify for $500,000 at the 2016 Keeneland yearling sale. Gunther said that Without Parole gave him a victory that was even more special than the Triple Crown.
“This was the most important and means everything to me,” Gunther said. “To be able to mate the mare to Frankel – and Juddmonte giving me that nomination even though the mare was unproven.”
Gunther, who operates Glennwood Farm in Kentucky with his daughter Tanya, paid $200,000 to Juddmonte Farms to pair Frankel, a two-time Royal Ascot winner, with their broodmare Without You Babe, herself sired by 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid.
“After we bred her to Frankel, she got her Grade 1 winner and proved herself,” Gunther said, referring to Tamarkuz’s victory in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. “Juddmonte allowing me to breed that mare to Frankel meant everything, believe me, because I love Frankel so much.”
Dettori had Without Parole (9-4 in the U.K., 2-1 in the U.S.) chasing the pace early before he moved her into second place two furlongs from the finish. A furlong later they had a lead that widened to two lengths. It would shrink to a half-length with strong closes by runner-up Gustav Klimt (8-1, 7-1) and third-place Wootton (8-1, 7-1). But by that point the result was no longer in doubt. The winning time was 1:38.64 on good-to-firm turf.
“There were no hiding places in that race,” Gosden said. “It was a proper, proper Group 1 pace.”
Without Parole had something else in common with Justify last month. He had a bruised foot. That did not keep Justify out of the Preakness. But it compelled Gosden to hold Without Parole out of the 2000 Guineas. He came back for a listed-stakes win nearly four weeks ago at Sandown before running his record to 4-for-4 on Tuesday.
“I think he could stay at a mile or go up,” Gosden said. “I think he will improve. He’ll get sharper, and I think he will get a little further, too.”
Where Lady Aurelia goes next seems uncertain after she failed to repeat against the boys in the five-furlong King’s Stand. The betting favorite on both sides of the Atlantic, Lady Aurelia (2-1, 3-2) was ridden forward by John Velázquez, but she could not keep up with the eventual winner Blue Point (6-1, 6-1).
“She broke well from the gate,” Velázquez told NBCSN. “But when I asked her, she stayed flat the whole way around. She didn’t run horrible. She wasn’t herself, let’s put it that way. She was not quite there.”
Ward wondered if something else might have been amiss with Lady Aurelia. “She looked like she came back good and sound,” he said. “But we will get her back to the barn and see if she is all right. We will scope her and see what that gives us.”
Bucchero (40-1, 28-1), the other U.S.-trained horse in the King’s Stand, finished fifth with José Ortiz riding for trainer Tim Glyshaw.
Dettori and Gosden also won with Calyx (2-1, 8-5) in the six-furlong, Group 2 Coventry Stakes for 2-year-olds and with Monarchs Glen (6-1) in the 1¼-mile Wolferton Stakes for older horses. Dettori, 47, has 59 Royal Ascot victories, the most of any active jockey. Gosden, 67, has saddled 46
Accidental Agent (33-1, 41-1) became the longest shot to win the Group 1 Queen Anne, the straight mile opener to the meet. Lord Glitters (20-1, 22-1) and Lightning Spear (10-1, 10-1) finished second and third, meaning that winning $2 exacta and trifecta tickets in the U.S. paid $1,948 and $13,384.60. Yoshida (11-1, 6-1), the Grade 1 Turf Classic winner last month at Churchill Downs for trainer Bill Mott, finished fifth.