The skies cleared, the Queen appeared and Royal Ascot 2021 went into the history books Saturday with Dream of Dreams winning the featured Diamond Jubilee Stakes in a "third time's the charm" performance.
Her Majesty, after giving a pass to the first four days of the Royal Meeting, came to watch four of her horses contest the final day's races. She was poorly rewarded with a heartbreaking second and a hard-luck third as her best results.
After a drenching rain into Friday, the Ascot course remained officially "soft" for the final seven races. The rain stayed away Saturday but dipping temperatures prompted wraps over a few of the high fashion ensembles. None of that tempered the enjoyment of one of Great Britain's first major sporting events in more than a year featuring significant on-course spectators.
With the fondest hope that everything is totally back to "normal" and Ascot will be packed again by next June, here's how Royal Ascot 2021 came down to the finish:
The Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Sir Michael Stoute is the all-time leading trainer at the Royal Meeting but was shut out in 2020 and through the first four days this week. Dream of Dreams had finished second, each time by a head, in the last two runnings of the 6-furlongs Diamond Jubilee. Both situations were set right Saturday as the 7-year-old gelding, under Ryan Moore, launched a challenge through the final two furlongs and outfinished Glen Shiel by 1 length. Art Power and Happy Power were third and fourth.
Dream of Dreams, an Irish-bred by Dream Ahead, came up just a head short of catching Godolphin's superstar Blue Point in the 2019 Diamond Jubilee. A year later, it was the same scenario but with Hello Youmzain in the winner's role. While he had done his share of winning, including last year's Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock, the Royal Ascot fixture clearly remained unfinished business for both the horse and his trainer.
"Any winner here is a great thrill, particularly a Group 1," Sir Michael said. "But, additionally, this fellow has just been touched off twice, so I'm pleased for him. He deserves it.
"I thought I wasn't going to have a Royal Ascot winner this year. This is the last runner we've got. It's been tough. It's always been tough, but it's tougher."
Sir Michael has been tough enough himself to win 82 times at the Royal Meeting -- the most of any trainer, ever.
The race has a storied history as the name has changed over the years to reflect the tenure of Her Majesty, who will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Among the memorable moments was Australia's super mare, Black Caviar, hanging on desperately in the final strides to win the 2012 renewal by a head over Moonlight Cloud. Danehill, Choisir and U.S.-trained Undrafted also have won the event.
Dream of Dreams earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint by dint of the victory -- the fourth Breeders' Cup berth awarded during the week.
Dream Of Dreams wins the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, picture Megan Ridgwell
The Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes
Wonderful Tonight returned from an eight-month absence to post her third straight win in the 1 1/2-miles Hardwick -- a victory impressive enough to fuel a buzz about October's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The 4-year-old Le Havre filly, with William Buick up for trainer David Menuisier, strode out to a comfortable lead inside the 2-furlongs marker and won by an equally comfortable 1 1/2 lengths from the favorite, Broome.
Wonderful Tonight's five victories from nine starts include Group 1 events in both England and France. All of her best work has been done on ground rated soft to heavy -- an indicator for the Arc, which usually is run over autumn turf at Longchamp in Paris.
"The fact that she handles soft/heavy ground so well compensated for the lack of fitness today," Menuisier said. "Can I go as far to say she will show the same traits on good ground? I don't know.
"Perhaps we will try in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe if the ground happened to be good. Would we try her on good ground before that? I don't know. She loves Longchamp and Ascot so we will keep an eye on all the races she can run it at both venues."
The Group 3 Jersey Stakes, 3-year-olds
Creative Force and Naval Crown, the joint favorites, made it a 1-2 finish for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby in the 7-furlongs Jersey. Naval Crown, a Dubawi colt with William Buick up, looked to have the race in hand while leading the stands-side group in the late going but James Doyle found just enough left in Creative Force to pull clear to a 1 1/4-lengths win.
Both are by Dubawi -- Creative Force a gelding and Naval Crown yet a colt. Creative Force posted his fourth straight win, all down the class ladder and all in England. Naval Crown wintered in Dubai for Sheik Mohammed and returned to run fourth in the Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas, won by Poetic Flair.
"I think we'll probably look at something like the Prix Maurice de Gheest, drop back half a furlong to six and a half," Appleby said. "He's (Creative Force) got bags of pace there, travels well and picks up well, so I think that'll be a nice race there to suit his profile. Potentially, the likelihood is the same for Naval Crown. They might just have to take each other on again and see if we can reverse the form."
Her Majesty had two in the Hardwick. Tactical and Light Refrain finished seventh and 11th -- a good combination in Las Vegas but less so on the track.
The Chesham Stakes, 2-year-olds
The Queen's heart rate likely was up as Reach for the Moon battled with the favorite, Point Lonsdale, to the finish of the day's opener, the Chesham Stakes for 2-year-olds. At the end, though, it was Ryan Moore and the Coolmore runner in front by 1/2 length from Frankie Dettori and Reach for the Moon. The others were well back.
"Sorry about that," winning trainer Aidan O'Brien said of beating The Queen's horse. "But we are delighted with Point Lonsdale. He obviously had had only one run at The Curragh, and he's still a bit of a baby. Ryan gave him a lovely ride … You'd be hoping he'd be a Classic horse and, being able to do that, a Guineas, Derby-type horse. That's what we'd be hoping for."
Thady Gosden, who trains Reach for the Moon jointly with his father, John, said Her Majesty's 2-year-old "is still very inexperienced. I think Reach for the Moon and the winner Point Lonsdale got lonely in front, but they both ran on well and look two nice prospects. Obviously our lad handled the ground, but he would also prefer better ground in the future. He is one to look forward to.”
Point Lonsdale is a son of 2014 Epsom Derby winner Australia and grandson of 2001 Epsom Derby winner Galileo. Her Majesty bred both Reach for the Moon, a son of 2009 Epsom Derby winner Sea the Stars, and the colt's dam, Golden Stream, who finished second in the Group 2 Sandringham Handicap at 2009 Royal Ascot.
If her runner was defeated on the square in the Chesham, the Queen could be pardoned if she cited excuses for King's Lynn's third-place finish as the favorite in the Wokingham Stakes. Rohaan, with Shane Kelly posting his first Royal Ascot win, got a clear run from last in the 6-furlongs event and won by a neck over Fresh. King's Lynn, by contrast, appeared long on run but short of room through the final furlong as Ryan Moore had to alter course twice before finding a seam. With a clear run, the outcome might well have been different.
The Golden Gates Stakes is a new race, added to bring each day's schedule up to seven events. This year, it was just enough to get Oisin Murphy over the top to the Royal Ascot jockeys' title as he brought Foxes Tales from last to first in a heartbeat in the stretch run, then survived the Zoffany colt's decision to make a hard left turn toward the stands inside the final furlong. No problem, as a quick correction got things right in time for a 2 1/4-lengths win with Visualization second in the penultimate event of the meeting.
The day and the Royal Meeting ended with Stratum, under Ryan Moore, showing extreme stamina to power home first, going away, after the 2 miles, 5 1/2 furlongs of the Queen Alexandra Stakes -- the longest race on the British flat racing calendar. Stratum, an 8-year-old Dansili gelding, had been tested going even longer in Ireland and had experience over the jumps and all-weather courses coming into the race.
News and Notes:
All said and done, Oisin Murphy was the leading rider of the meeting, John and son Thady Gosden landed the training title and Godolphin were crowned winning owner.
Murphy, twice the leading UK rider, took down his first Royal Ascot title with five wins, one second and two thirds. Ryan Moore was second with a mark of 4-6-4, followed by William Buick and Frankie Dettori. Murphy's tally would have been even better had he not been disqualified from victory in Friday's Group 1 Commonwealth Cup.
"Thanks very much to the fast horses," Murphy said. "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 learned this week, is precious, and it's a continuous reminder."
John Gosden moved newly licensed son Thady into partnership at the start of the year and came out with guns blazing, scoring huge wins in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Their four Royal Ascot winners piled honors upon earnings even with stable star Stradivarius coming up short in his effort to win a fourth straight Grade 1 Gold Cup.
"We had a great meeting with some fillies winning Group 2 races and it was a good atmosphere here -- safe, sensible and people actually coming out and living their lives again," said the elder Gosden.
Godolphin sent out three winners, 1second and three thirds against the record of the Irish lads from Coolmore of 2-5-4.
Hugh Anderson, Godolphin managing director for the UK and Dubai, said, "I am delighted for everyone at Godolphin and of course His Highness Sheik 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."