Burke, Wathnan and Doyle strike again with Shareholder in the Norfolk Stakes

Karl Burke, Wathnan Racing and James Doyle struck in the opening Group 2 Norfolk Stakes (1000m) with 12/1 chance Shareholder at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

Shareholder and James Doyle pay dividends in the Norfolk Stakes, picture Liesl King

For the winning connections, this was another juvenile victory at this year’s Royal Meeting, following up Leovanni’s success in Wednesday’s Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes.

Like Leonvanni, Shareholder scored in convincing style, beating the Andrew Balding-trained Tropical Storm and Adrian Murray’s Arizona Blaze by a length and a head. 

Shareholder, a son of the US stallion Not This Time, was bought for €460,000 at a breeze-up sale in France by Wathnan Racing’s bloodstock advisor Richard Brown. The colt made a winning debut at Beverley 12 days ago.

Burke said: “Shareholder did a hell of a lot wrong first time, but I knew he’d step forward from that, even physically. Although he was two or three kilos lighter coming here today than Beverley, he looked bigger and stronger. Great credit must go to Richard Brown; I know he had plenty of money to spend, but he’s bought very well. 

“Richard was quietly confident that he’d be able to turn the 7lb around with Sheikh Rashid’s horse [Moving Force], but I think this is a very good horse, and he’ll stay six furlongs as well. I thought we were going to get nabbed a furlong out, and then he’s gone again. I love the way he stretched again in the last 50 yards.”

When asked about the future, he added: "I would say he's speed. I think he will definitely stay six furlongs and I'm sure he'll be a Commonwealth Cup horse. I would think we'll step him up next time but I'll speak to the guys. I don't think he'll be a Guineas horse, he hasn't shown us that, although he relaxed very well today, so I suppose he has a chance."

Brown said: “It is very hard as you are up against breeding operations which have been going for 30 or 40 years. That really is the way to get the Derby-type horses, so we said if we could get some sharp juveniles, it would give us some action coming through. So with Olly Tait we put together a proposal to buy some breeze-up horses, which we did, with a view to maybe having a couple that could get to Ascot. 

“What has happened in the past two days, you couldn’t even dream it would go like this. All credit to Karl Burke and his team. It is important to mention Richard Morgan-Evans and his team in Newmarket. Every horse we buy goes to Richard and they have a tailor-made, individual programme which involves immediate turnout in paddocks, and giving them that recovery time. Richard is a very important part of the process.”

"It is usually said that it's too tight a turnaround to get a horse from the Arqana sale to Royal Ascot, but we like a challenge and I thought this was the horse to do it.”

Doyle said: “Shareholder is still learning. I tried to keep a lid on him for as long as possible and wanted to give him time to get organised.

"His debut was a bit messy at Beverley – it is a hard place to teach a horse, but he learned plenty. As we know, those smaller tracks get plenty of people there and it was like a mini Royal Ascot. So he’d seen pretty much all of this, and he took it very well. 

“He missed the break a fraction - not nearly as badly as he did at Beverley, but he showed that speed to put himself in behind the leaders. He took time to get balanced up but, once he did, he always felt as though he had enough in the tank to keep going.

"He's got a big engine. A big thank you to Karl Burke – he has produced these horses lovely, which isn't an easy thing to do. He was very confident, Karl, so when he is confident you respect his opinion.”

Asked about Wathnan Racing, Doyle added: "It is great to have a superpower like this really getting behind British racing. It's been a tough sell, our sport, hasn't it, so we have to really take note when people want to invest, and they deserve all the success.”

Andrew Balding said of Tropical Storm: “I am delighted. He can mix it at a high level. He’s done very little wrong. He is still a maiden, which is a bit frustrating, but his time will come, I’m sure.”

Oisin Murphy added: “I have a lot of belief in Tropical Storm. I said before the race that he’s probably the best maiden in the country, and that was a super run. Hopefully he can win at this level. He has size, and a big future.”

Arizona Blaze’s trainer Adrian Murray said: “I am delighted. He’s a gorgeous horse, a beautiful horse. He would be very much on a par [with last year’s winner Valiant Force]. This fellow is probably more mature – he’s built like a three-year-old. He has a lot of strength about him. We’ve entered him in all the top two-year-old races, so we will pick and choose where we go, and will see how he comes out of the race today.”

David Egan added: “Arizona Blaze is versatile ground-wise. Five furlongs on quick ground is probably the sharpest he would want. I am really proud of him, he ran a great race.”

2.30pm Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
1 Shareholder (Wathnan Racing) Karl Burke 2-9-03 James Doyle 12/1
2 Tropical Storm (Teme Valley Racing) Andrew Balding 2-9-03 Oisin Murphy 11/1
3 Arizona Blaze (Amo Racing Limited & Giselle de Aguiar) Adrian Murray IRE 2-9-03  David Egan 14/1
13 ran                 10/11F Whistlejacket

Karl Burke – 7th Royal Ascot winner
James Doyle – 20th Royal Ascot winner

Royal Ascot winner number 20 for James Doyle, picture Liesl King