Trainers work their whole lives hoping to get a horse that can win them a single Grade 1 or Group 1 race. Charlie Appleby has a horse that won him two Group 1s in five days.
Already a repeat winner Tuesday in the King’s Stand, Blue Point (1-1 in the U.S., 3-2 in the U.K.) did it again Saturday. He held on to win by a head in the $764,520 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the six-furlong feature for older horses on the final day of Royal Ascot in the south of England.
“None of us can do this without the horse,” said Appleby, the lead European trainer for the Godolphin conglomerate owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai. “What sets him apart is what we saw today. He is a class animal.”
Blue Point’s victory on a sun-drenched Saturday marked the first time since the Australian sprinter Choisir in 2003 that any horse had won twice during the same royal meeting. He did it in the same two races, but Blue Point became the first to do it with both designated as Group 1s.
Appleby could have rested on the laurel’s of Tuesday’s win, but he and Sheikh Mohammed had already decided to use Blue Point as their marker in a parlay.
“We thought about it the week before,” Appleby said. “I said, ‘Sir, if you are happy, let’s just dream we can win the King’s Stand and have a crack at the Diamond Jubilee. It was so sporting of His Highness to bring this horse back.”
With jockey James Doyle subbing for the injured William Buick, the 5-year-old sired by Shamardal tried to run his typical stalking style Saturday. But he was chasing a torrid, early pace set by eventual third-place finisher Kachy (69-1, 33-1). His fractions through the first two quarter-miles were 24.62 with no run-up and 46.76 seconds.
“I was at pains to give Kachy five lengths and tried to give him more,” Doyle said. “But I could not restrain Blue Point any longer.”
Blue Point was second approaching the final furlong, and then he passed the fading Kachy. Then he was pressed hard in the last 50 yards by Dream Of Dreams (15-1, 12-1). It was then a question of whether the finish line would appear soon enough for Blue Point.
“Another stride I would have won,” Dream Of Dreams’s jockey Danny Tudhope said.
Instead, it was Blue Point stopping the clock at 1:11.42, only 0.37 seconds off the course record he set more than two years ago.
“It got a little bit hairy late on,” Doyle said. “Obviously Kachy went a hell of a pace. But this fellow is so genuine that all he wanted to do was chase him down.”
Now 5-for-5 this year, Blue Point will be focused next on the $637,100 Group 1 July Cup, in which he is already the 7-2 favorite despite finishing seventh last year on a Newmarket track where he is 0-for-3.
Although Blue Point is qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, Appleby told NBCSN that it was “unlikely” he would make the trip to America this fall before a stud career begins in 2020.
There will be arguments on behalf of five-time Group 1 winner Santa Ana Lane in Australia and maybe yet from reigning two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Stormy Liberal here in America. But when looking for the top turf sprinter in the world, it is hard to poke holes in Blue Point’s résumé – and especially in his unmatched recent form.
“Blue Point is a horse you only dream about having,” Doyle said. “After his last piece of work before the King’s Stand, I thought he was the quickest horse I have ever ridden. He has really learned what his job is about, and he has got better and better with each race.”
Royal Ascot notes and opinions
Third in last year’s running of the race, the 5-year-old American sprinter Bound For Nowhere (13-1, 12-1) was prominent early in the Diamond Jubilee under jockey Tyler Gaffalione. But he never factored late, finishing 13th in the field of 17. It meant that in his 11th annual trip to Royal Ascot, Wesley Ward went winless for the first time since 2012. The closest he came with his seven horses was Wednesday with 2-year-old filly Kimari, second by a head to Raffle Prize in the $140,162 Group 2 Queen Mary.
Because the ground improved to good – even good to firm in spots – Ward scratched Joker On Jack from the $114,678 Chesham Stakes, Saturday’s seven-furlong opener for 2-year-olds. The colt sired by Declaration Of War is a maiden winner that switched to turf and finished a disappointing seventh on good ground in a $40,774 stakes race last month at Newbury, England. As for those that did race, the Godolphin colt Pinatubo (5-2, 3-1) ran on to a 3¼-length victory at 1:25.73, a course-record time for 2-year-olds.
Although he did not win Saturday, Frankie Dettori’s seven wins this week were enough to give him his sixth Royal Ascot riding title and his first since 2004. Aidan O’Brien was also shut out on the final day, but his five victories made him the top trainer for the fifth time in a row and the 10th time overall.
Three weeks after winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom, 5-year-old gelding Defoe (2-1, 11-4) held off the late-closing Czech Republic-based 5-year-old Nagano Gold (26-1, 25-1) by a half-length to win the 1½-mile, $286,695 Group 2 Hardwicke for older horses. Trained by Roger Varian and ridden by Andrea Atzeni, Defoe was the biggest beneficiary of Nagano Gold’s trouble at the start. Coming back from a year-long layoff, the second betting choice Masar (3-1, 5-2) stumbled out of the gate and nearly fell. With Doyle barely hanging on, Masar went to his right and cut off Nagano Gold, whose jockey Christophe Soumillon yelled back toward the gate attendants over the first 50 yards. “It has cost me the race,” Soumillon said afterward.
Space Traveller (47-1, 25-1) ended a seven-race, 11-month losing streak with a surprising win in the Group 3 Jersey for 3-year-olds racing seven furlongs. In a late duel to the finish, he won by a head over the favorite Space Blues (2-1, 5-2) for trainer Richard Fahey and jockey Danny Tudhope. It was the third victory this week for Space Traveller’s sire Bated Breath, tying him with Galileo and Sea The Stars for the royal meeting’s stallion title.
Ron Flatter’s racing column appears daily during Royal Ascot. It is normally posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. The current edition features trainer Doug O’Neill talking about the ups and downs of a trying but successful season at Santa Anita. SiriusXM FC’s Tommy Smyth with a “Y” shares some betting stories, including his simple strategy for wagering on the horses. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google and Stitcher.