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Sydney-born trainer John Moore has vowed to return to Royal Ascot in search of victory after Australian-bred Hong Kong star Able Friend finished a disappointing sixth in the opening race of the prestigious English race meeting.

Second favourite Able Friend didn’t have the legs over the straight mile of the Queen Anne Stakes (1600m), won by French raider and market leader Solow.

Fellow French challenger Esoterique was beaten by a length into second while Cougar Mountain finished well to grab third.

Moore later apologised for Able Friend’s poorer-than-expected running.

“We’re sorry he wasn’t able to live up to his Hong Kong races but we’ll be back again,” the 55-year-old Australian expat told reporters, adding it was still “great” to be invited to the royal meeting.

Moore, the son of son of legendary Australian jockey George Moore, suggested the long-distance travel from Hong Kong and a new environment could partly explain the result.

“I was hoping he’d be the same demeanour here in the paddock prior, and saddling and everything, but that just wasn’t the case,” he said.

“I think just the aura of the whole thing got to him, but I’m sure he’ll be okay and we’ll be looking to come back with either him or something else.”

Physically the six-year-old – unbeaten in his previous six starts – was “as good as gold” after the Queen Anne Stakes, Moore said.

“The jockey (Joao Moreira) said he changed legs about the four (fourth furlong) – that was about it but otherwise he said no explanation.”

Moore revealed when they saddled up Able Friend he wasn’t his usual self.

He was on the toe and “quite hot” when he got to the gates.

“But he seemed to pull up okay … and I’m sure we’ll get him back to Hong Kong and in full swing again.”

The gelding’s next run will be in October leading into the international mile.

Earlier, before the first race was even run at Ascot, the bookies had paid out on one contest – what colour the Queen would be wearing. It was pink.

Officially the colour was described as “fuchsia and cerise” but William Hill paid out on the nearest description of pink.

Australian mare Shamal Wind runs in the King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday.

Criterion flies the Aussie flag on Wednesday while sprinters Brazen Beau and Wandjina line up in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday.

 
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