Champion jockey Oisin Murphy secured his first Leading Jockey title at Royal Ascot this week with five victories, one ahead of Ryan Moore, with Frankie Dettori and William Buick both partnering three winners during the meeting.
Murphy, whose final day success on Foxes Tales in the Golden Gates Handicap helped clinch the title, said: “I wouldn’t have expected it if you had asked me on Tuesday morning if I would be leading jockey this week - of course not. It normally belongs on Ryan or Frankie, but they gave me a turn this week.
“Thanks very much to the fast horses. It has been a super week. It’s special, because as I get older, I appreciate these days more and more. I know I’m only 25, but life, as we learnt this week, is precious, and it’s a continuous reminder.
“My best moment of the week was Alcohol Free. She came along at a very important time in my career last year - I was under a lot of pressure and I managed to nail a G1 – and yesterday was a similar scenario. The pressure was on.”
John & Thady Gosden broke new ground as the first training partnership to take Leading Trainer honours at Royal Ascot. The father and son combination sent out four winners, the same total as Andrew Balding, but took the title by virtue of Reach For The Moon’s second in Saturday’s Listed Chesham Stakes.
John Gosden said: “First of all, we had the most glorious weather for three days - cool on Thursday, stunningly hot and summer on Tuesday and Wednesday, and great racing under those conditions. It was wonderful to see people back in here; 10,000 people, all socially distanced, tests taken.
“There is no doubt with the rain that came heavily here on the Friday. The Ascot executive and all the groundstaff did a magnificent job in changing some of the railing, organising to get away from some of the places that were a little bit waterlogged, and we raced right through yesterday and right through today.
“Fabulous racing and horses seemed in great order, and I think it’s a testament to willpower that it’s been pulled off with government blessing to go ahead, and I think it’s a very safe environment. Of course, we are in big, open spaces, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, but it was very safe at the same time.
“The first race on the first day, Palace Pier, was wonderful for us. The Gold Cup - we didn’t have the best trip [with Stradivarius] but I thought the winner was the best horse, and I think he won in great style. We had a great meeting with some fillies winning G2 races, and it was a good atmosphere here - safe, sensible and people actually coming out and living their lives again.”
Godolphin received the Leading Owner award thanks to three victories, including Kemari winning the G2 Queen’s Vase and Creative Force beating Naval Crown to provide the operation with a 1-2 in the G3 Jersey Stakes.
Hugh Anderson, Godolphin Managing Director (UK and Dubai) said: “I am delighted for everyone at Godolphin and of course His Highness Sheikh Mohammed. This has already been a memorable season for Godolphin with Derby success and to be crowned Royal Ascot Leading Owner once again is very special. We hope for more success throughout the rest of the year.”
Following a 2020 without crowds, Royal Ascot 2021 had a semblance of normality as racegoers returned for all five days as part of the government’s Events Research Programme.
Guy Henderson, Chief Executive at Ascot, said: “First of all, it was a real boost to be accepted as part of the government’s Events Research Programme. The truth of the matter is that the events industry across all sectors needs people to be sustainable. Therefore it was an easy decision to say ‘of course, no matter how difficult it is, we will try’ – because the government is trying to collect the appropriate data to help the country open up, and to give themselves and all of us the confidence that it can be done safely.
“We have learnt from COVID-19 that human beings are basically social creatures, and we need these events to help us open up. This week has felt like coming out of hibernation for most of us and it has been absolutely wonderful. We aimed to deliver what I would call an ‘authentic little Royal Ascot’ and I hope everybody enjoyed it.
“Thank you to everybody for cooperating with all the procedures. The most important thing after the event is for people to do their five-day PCR tests because the data from that will be really helpful to the government in future plans.
“I would like to pay tribute to all our staff for staying cheerful in uncertain times and for working so hard to lay this meeting on.
“It has been wonderful for us that so many senior members of the Royal Family and their guests have been with us this week, including Her Majesty The Queen today, who had a second and a third on the track.
“There has been fantastic racing, some in perfect conditions and some in adverse conditions. There have been exciting finishes, which is what we like, and both the leading jockey and trainer awards went down to the wire. Congratulations to Oisin Murphy and John & Thady Gosden as well as Godolphin, who were the leading owners.”
Looking ahead to next year, Henderson added: “Royal Ascot 2022 in The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year cannot come too soon. What we are really looking for is a smooth growth path in the second half of this year. We have quite a lot of uncertainty in July, but we are hoping we will get clarity on the precise date that we can move into Step 4 and exactly what the regime will be for major events in Step 4.”