Soprano sings virtues of Boughey and Loughnane with Sandringham Handicap victory


Rising stars George Boughey and Billy Loughnane were the toast of Royal Ascot following the victory of Soprano in the Sandringham Handicap (1600m) at Royal Ascot on Friday.

Wearing the colours of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, this was a second winner at the meeting for 18-year-old Loughnane, who won Tuesday’s G2 Coventry Stakes on Rashabar. 

Soprano (14/1) made her challenge down the centre of the track before moving towards the stands’ rail, finishing half a length ahead of Strutting, who was ridden by one of Australian racing’s hottest talents, Rachel King. Uluru was a further half length behind, with Indelible faring best of those on the far side in fourth.

Soprano too good under Billy Loughnane, picture Liesl King

Boughey said: “Saying that this filly has been unlucky wouldn’t quite quantify it, but huge credit has to go to Harry [Herbert of Highclere]. We had a long phone conversation in the office the other morning – I wanted to go to Carlisle and Harry wanted to come to Ascot! 

“Soprano has been a filly we’ve always held in really high regard. She hit the line so strong at Musselburgh, so I phoned Harry and said we’ve got the try the mile. Again, huge credit must go to Charles Eddery – he’s ridden her since she came to us as a yearling. 

“She’s been a bit keen and a bit numb, and Billy did a great job settling her. She has taken a while to relax at home. As I was saddling her, whereas as a two-year-old she was mauling me, today she stood there as quiet as a lamb. She’s coming of age now, just like her jockey.”

Loughnane said: “This week just keeps getting better and better. It doesn't get better than riding a winner here. I was so lucky earlier on in the week to have landed one and take the pressure off. I said on Monday night that I would be disappointed if I drew a blank for the week but, wow, the feeling doesn't get old.

“I had to bide my time, and Soprano finished off very well. Her form was very strong from a two-year-old, and this is her first step back in a handicap – she’d been running in stakes company – and first try over the mile as well. 

“She is a filly with a lot of ability, and, if I’m honest, she probably would have been a lot closer at Musselburgh [finished third]. She was a bit slow through the gates on a front-running course; I was too far behind and I didn’t give her the greatest of rides. I’m delighted to be able to repay the owners and thank them very much for keeping faith.

“It means a lot to ride a winner for George. I had my first winner for him a year ago last week and we’ve had plenty more since. Without George, I’m not sure I would have kept the momentum up after losing my claim. He’s been massive for me and I’ve got a lot to thank him for.”

Billy Loughnane celebrates his second Royal Ascot winner, picture Liesl King

Harry Herbert of Highclere said: “Billy is extraordinary and the most lovely guy. He works so hard, he helps with the mucking out and is a real team player. This is such a thrill – we gave him his first Listed win, and I said to him, it’s so frustrating you’ve already won because this could be your first [Royal Ascot] winner, but there you go, he’s got two on the board already. 

“Being the very, very good armchair jockey I am, I was screaming at him to make a move, and thankfully he knew a lot better than I did! But it was a great effort.

“This is the most lovely team of owners. Some of them were in Cachet and came into this filly, bought by Jake Warren as a yearling. Jake is a remarkable talent and has his father’s eye. George Boughey we’ve just had the most fantastic run with. We make a lot of plans with George and it’s fun planning with your trainer. When they come off, like this, it’s wonderful.”

Strutting’s rider Rachel King said: “It was a big thrill. It was a huge privilege just to be here competing, but to be in the finish was even better. She was a lovely horse to ride. I think they did the right thing in bringing her back in trip a little bit. She travelled beautifully. She probably got herself there a little bit soon, but credit to her – she was super, super brave, and tried hard. The tough mile really suited her today.”

Joseph O’Brien said of Uluru: “She ran great. I’m delighted for Barry [Irwin] and the ownership group. She’s an exciting filly for the future. She behaved really well. Maxime gave her a great ride. It’s frustrating that she was placed and didn’t win, but that’s racing.”

5.05pm Sandringham Handicap
1 Soprano (Highclere Thoroughbred Racing – Da Vinci) George Boughey 3-9-05 Billy Loughnane 14/1
2 Strutting (Zhang Yuesheng) John & Thady Gosden 3-8-02 Rachel King 33/1
3 Uluru (Team Valor) Joseph O’Brien IRE 3-8-11 Maxime Guyon 28/1
4 Indelible (Juddmonte) Ralph Beckett 3-8-10 Hector Crouch 5/1
30 ran                7/2F Kitty Rose (5th) 

George Boughey – 3rd Royal Ascot winner 
Billy Loughnane – 2nd Royal Ascot winner