Three Group One races on the first day of Royal Ascot started the meeting off in style and it was mixed fortunes for backers with Lord Glitters, an outsider, taking the Queen Anne Stakes to get the meeting off to a great start for the bookies. But the punters hit back in the King’s Stand Stakes with Godolphin’s Blue Point following up last year’s success with a cosy win from Battaash, who finished second to Blue Point last year.
However, in the day’s feature race, the St James’s Palace Stakes, it was the Aidan O’Brien trained 10/1 shot Circus Maximus who held of the challenge of the more fancied John Gosden pair King Of Comedy and Too Darn Hot to turn things back in favour of the bookmakers.
Lord Glitters, trained in the north of England by David O’Meara, had disappointed in the Lockinge last time out but he was second in the Queen Anne last year and went one better this time under jockey Daniel Tudhope. Held up towards the back of the field, Lord Glitters came with a late run in the last furlong to win by a neck from fellow outsider Beat The Bank.
The race had a dramatic start as last year’s winner Accidental Agent blotted his copybook this time around by refusing to race.
In the King’s Stand it was a case of déjà vu as last year’s one-two completed their rematch by finishing in the same order as they had done twelve months ago. Racing on different sides of the track for much of the way, jockey James Doyle had Blue Point handy while Battaash, under Jim Crowley, took a lead from the Australian challenger Houtzen (who stumbled badly leaving the stalls) on the stands side.
With a furlong to go it looked like the speedy Battaash was going best of the pair, who had both drawn away from their pursuers, but it was Blue Point who stayed on strongest to register an opening win at this year’s meeting for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby.
The St James’s Palace Stakes was an intriguing race in prospect with the Irish Guineas first and second, Phoenix Of Spain and Too Darn Hot renewing rivalry. Too Darn Hot’s trainer John Gosden also provided another interesting runner with the rapidly improving King Of Comedy, well fancied here despite being upped significantly in class.
In the end none of them could cope with Aidan O’Brien’s Circus Maximus, dropping back in trip after failing to stay when sixth in the Derby just over two weeks ago. Ridden prominently in second place through the race, Ryan Moore set sail for home through the worsening rainfall as they turned into the straight. Once he had battled past the long-time leader Fox Champion the dangers starting queuing up behind. However, Circus Maximus, a son of Galileo out of a dual Royal Ascot winning mare Duntle, had already won over an extended ten furlongs at Chester earlier in the season and his stamina came into play as he out-battled Too Darn Hot and repelled the late challenge of King Of Comedy.
Joint owner Michael Tabor, for whom O’Brien has trained a succession of good horses was quick to heap praise on the trainer. “Only Aidan can produce them like that,” he said, adding “I’ve learned not to argue with him. He is just right so many times.” As well as dropping the horse in trip by half a mile in just seventeen days, O’Brien also applied first time blinkers to the colt.
The tariner was, as ever, humble in victory, suggesting that the owners were the ones who hatched the plan but John Magnier, who runs the Coolmore operation, was quick to let it be known that the idea to run belonged to O’Brien before adding of the decision to supplement the horse, “we didn’t spend the £45,000 for nothing, he had a shot.”