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Royal Ascot 2021 - Day 4

 The telling image of Day 4 at Royal Ascot: Trainer Wesley Ward pacing nervously around the winner's enclosure, hands clasped behind his back, rain dripping from the brim of his top hat, as he awaited a stewards' verdict on the outcome of the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup.


The question before the court was, did Dragon Symbol interfere badly enough with Ward's runner, Campanelle, in the final furlong to result in the head margin by which Dragon Symbol got home first?

The deliberations, which dragged on for some 10 minutes, would make the difference between a pretty good meeting and a disappointing trans-Atlantic visit for Ward, a pioneer among American trainers at the Royal meeting.

The race was between those two in the late going as they battled head-to-head. But Dragon Symbol, under Oisin Murphy, was lugging in dramatically throughout that final furlong, crowding Campanelle and jockey Frankie Dettori halfway across the course and bumping lightly several times.

The rain fell, the tension drew and Dragon Symbol's trainer, Archie Watson, also paced, his hands in the pockets of a tan raincoat.

"In the U.S., we already took her picture and we're drinking Champagne," Ward said as he awaited the verdict. "But we respect the stewards' decision, for sure."

That decision was easier for him to respect when the officials overturned the result, awarding Campanelle the victory -- Ward's first of the meeting with his eighth starter. 

"It's never nice winning a race in the steward's room," Dettori said. "In these kinds of conditions, when you're taken across about eight lanes and touched three times, lost momentum and beaten a head … "

Murphy, even before he was handed a four-days suspension for the ride, said the decision was unfortunate.

"I was on the best horse," Murphy said. "Frankie told me I was on the best horse. I hope he'll have his day in the sun and well done to Wesley Ward."

Campanelle was Ward's best chance of the week. The Kodiac filly won the Group 2 Queen Mary at last year's Royal Meeting in just her second start and backed that up with another score in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville.

The Deauville victory came over soft turf, which gave Ward and Dettori confidence for Friday's race as overnight rains turned the Ascot course from the "good to firm" conditions of the first three days of the meeting to "heavy", with rain still falling. An inspection was required before racing was allowed.

It was clear the win meant much to Ward, who is equally comfortable -- and successful -- dressed up in formal attire hobnobbing with royalty and dressed down in baggy jeans and a polo shirt at Keeneland or Kentucky Downs.

"Winning at Royal Ascot is so special. Royal Ascot has changed my life," he said. "If it wasn't for Royal Ascot, my kids would be going to community college and, instead, my eldest son is going to law school in August."

There was immediate speculation Campanelle and Dragon Symbol might meet again in the Darley July Cup but Ward said that race "could come a bit quick. I have run horses in the Prix Maurice De Gheest in the past and I think she'll do well whatever ground comes on the day. I think it would suit." That's Aug. 8 at Deauville.

The Group 1 Coronation Stakes, 3-year-old fillies

It didn't take Murphy long to wash the sour taste from his mouth as the champion rider piloted Alcohol Free to victory in the next race, the Group 1 Coronation Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

After chasing German raider Novembra through most of the 1 mile, Murphy got Alcohol Free rolling midway down the stretch, hit the lead handily and outfinished Snow Lanern by 1 1/2 lengths. Coolmore's Mother Earth was along for third, edging Novembra, with the favorite, Pretty Gorgeous, fifth.

Murphy said he had no time to mourn the loss of the previous race.

"I said to my valet when he put his hand around me, 'There's no place for tears in here. There are far worse things going on in the world. We're in the entertainment industry and I'm steering these marvelous animals and keep looking forward to the next one.'"

Alcohol Free, an Irish-bred daughter of No Nay Never, won the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket as her 2020 finale but raised questions when fifth in the Qipco 1000 Guineas, won by Mother Earth, in her most recent race.

"She did win a Group 1 last year, so there's never been any doubt about her ability," said Alcohol Free's trainer, Andrew Balding. "But she needed a bit of luck and everything to drop right. She's in the July Cup and the Sussex Stakes. Whether she does both or one I don't know but I think we'll stick to Britain this year."

The Group 3 Albany Stakes, 2-year-old fillies

Sandrine surged to the lead well inside the final furlong of the Group 3 Albany Stake and, shrugging off the heavy going, ran on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Hello You could not hold the lead against Sandrine's challenge but beat the others with Oscula third. David Probert provided the winning ride for trainer Andrew Balding.

Sandrine, a daughter of Bobby's Kitten out of the Pivotal mare Seychelloise, was having just her second career go following a win on the Kempton Park all-weather course May 19.

"All my animals are homebred," said owner-breeder Kirsten Rausing. "So it gives me tremendous pleasure to keep the continuity. I also tend to support my own stallions, and this filly is Bobby's Kitten's first stakes winner, first Group winner, so we are thrilled with that." 

The Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes, for 3-year-old colts and geldings

Alenquer made up a lot of ground in the late going of the Group 2 King Edward, rallying from near the rear of the six-horse field to take the lead with a furlong to run. He then held well, winning by 1 1/2 lengths as the favorite with Tasman Bay second and Title third.

Alenquer, a French-bred colt by the German sire Adlerflug, won for the third time in four starts, showing great promise for trainer William Haggas while advancing through the ranks. 

Also:

Create Belief came with a rush right up against the stands-side rail to take the lead with 2 furlongs to run in the Sandringham Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the straight mile. Samoot was second as the favorite with Messidor third. Create Belief, an Irish filly by Awtaad, came to Ascot as the winner of the Betway Spring Fillies Handicap at the Curragah, where she finished 1 length better than Holly Golightly. All three of her wins have come over soft or heavy ground and she is entered in a Group 2 event next month back home.

Murphy won another one in the The Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at just shy of 1 1/2 miles as the favorite, Quickthorne, powered away in the final furlong to defeat Raymond Tusk 1 1/2 lengths. Zabeel Champion was third. Quickthorne, a 4-year-old Nathaniel gelding, made it two in a row, following an 8 1/2-lengths score in his previous start, a Haydock Park handicap.

Significantly was the survivor of he cavalry charge that was the day's finale, The Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes for 3-year-olds, 5 furlongs down the sodden Ascot straight. The Garswood colt came down the stands-side rail and outfinished a fast-closing challenge from Boomshalaa, holding on by a head. Fantasy Master was third.

Tomorrow:

Really? It's the final day already? Yup.

The feature is the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 6 furlongs which, honestly, is a bit lacking in star power. The antepost favorite is Dream of Dreams, last year's runner-up for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. He went on to win the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock.

The supporting program includes the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at 1 1/2 miles and the Group 3 Jersey Stakes for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs.

The condition of the course remains a concern. Friday's races were given a green flag only after an inspection of the course and the rain kept falling during the program. The Met Office promised better weather by post time Saturday but how much more moisture might materialize in the meantime remained up to the weather gods.

Ascot's Clerk of the Course, Chris Stickels, said after Friday's races the course had logged 43.5 millimeters (about 1.7 inches) of rain since the end of the Thursday card, "which is certainly a 24-hour record for Royal Ascot in my time as Clerk of the Course."

"The forecast is for this rain eventually to die out later this evening, although it's unclear when because it keeps on circling round us, and for a better day tomorrow. It's not predicted to be warm and sunny, but dry with the chance of an occasional shower."                                         

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