Royal As­cot 2018 Group 1 Glam­our

The five days of pomp and pageantry of the an­nual Royal As­cot meet­ing al­ways has a solid foun­da­tion in the qual­ity of rac­ing and the cham­pi­ons it con­firms or in­tro­duces to the world stage. This years’ meet­ing was par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant for two ladies, E

Ladies in Racing - - Contents - Story and Im­ages by Deb­bie Burt

Of­ten re­garded as the day for the rac­ing purist, the open­ing day of the Royal Meet­ing fea­tures five Pat­tern races, which starts the ball rolling at the high­est level with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes for older horses, run over As­cot’s straight mile course. Ac­ci­den­tal Agent may have been sent off at odds of 33-1 but, hav­ing been held up off the pace in the early stages, the colt came with a strong chal­lenge in the fi­nal fur­long, be­fore win­ning de­ci­sively by half a length un­der Charles Bishop. In the ex­cite­ment fol­low­ing the race Eve ex­claimed: “I had never trained a Group 2 win­ner, let alone a Group 1 win­ner. I had also never trained a win­ner at Royal As­cot; now I have achieved both in the one race. “They prob­a­bly had to man the lifeboats, be­cause there was a lot of happy tears. Luck­ily, I had a lit­tle bit each-way at 50 Shillings to pay for the party!” To add to the emo­tion of the event, Ac­ci­den­tal Agent is owned and was bred by Eve’s mother Gaie, who bought back the son of Del­e­ga­tor as a year­ling for a mere 8,000 Guineas at the Tat­ter­salls sales in 2015. He is named af­ter the book ti­tled ‘ Ac­ci­den­tal Agent’ writ­ten by John Gold­smith, Eve’s grand­fa­ther, in which he re­counts his es­cape from the gestapo dur­ing World

War II, when he was a spe­cial op­er­a­tive ex­ec­u­tive be­hind en­emy lines. Eve had been dream­ing about the race in the run-up say­ing: “I hadn’t slept prop­erly for two nights. I dreamt he would be third. Then I was watch­ing it and I thought, no, he’s go­ing to be sec­ond, and then? The poor peo­ple sit­ting near my mum and I would have been deaf­ened!”. Eve con­tin­ued, “It’s great, un­be­liev­able, ridicu­lous, it was some­thing I just could not have be­lieved would hap­pen. For it to have hap­pened to my mother, who bred him, is won­der­ful. What a le­gend she is. I’m so proud of her. She was the lit­tle per­son cry­ing some­where.”

For Jes­sica Har­ring­ton, top level win­ners were more fa­mil­iar, as she had al­ready achieved huge suc­cess in Na­tional Hunt rac­ing, train­ing the win­ners of the Chel­tenham Gold Cup, the Cham­pion Hur­dle, the Cham­pion Chase and an Ir­ish Grand Na­tional. Af­ter Siz­ing John won the Gold Cup last year Jes­sica ex­pressed her de­sire to train a Clas­sic win­ner on the Flat - that wish was swiftly granted when Al­pha Cen­tu­ari fin­ished strongly to win the 2018 Ir­ish 1,000 Guineas in the last 100 yards.

Fol­low­ing that win, she soon added her de­sire to add a Royal As­cot win­ner to her wish list, de­scrib­ing the week as like hav­ing Chel­tenham in sum­mer, while sug­gest­ing the Coro­na­tion Stakes at the meet­ing as the next likely tar­get for the Niar­chos fam­ily’s filly. Run as the fea­ture race on the fourth day, the Group 1 Coro­na­tion Stakes is for three-year-old fil­lies; the card opens with the Group 3 Al­bany Stakes for ju­ve­nile fil­lies, in which Jes­sica started Chi­cas Ami­gas, one of two fil­lies she trains for the It’s All About the Girls syn­di­cate, who had such suc­cess with Global Glam­our. Though she briefly led, Chi­cas Ami­gas was un­able to bet­ter Al­pha Cen­tauri’s neck sec­ond in the same race the pre­vi­ous year, fin­ish­ing sev­enth.

Later in the Coro­na­tion Stakes, there were no hard luck sto­ries for Al­pha Cen­tauri and Colm O’donoghue, as the daugh­ter of Master­crafts­man win was never in doubt. And what a win it was, not only did Al­pha Cen­tauri pick up the lead a fur­long out, she quick­ened clear to win by six lengths, beat­ing the pre­vi­ous track record by 1.3 sec­onds; so fast in fact, the placed horses toil­ing in her wake also fin­ished in­side the old record time.

“I’m re­lieved firstly,” Jes­sica said. “I was very wound up. I know she is very good and we were a bit un­der the radar in the Ir­ish Guineas. To­day she was favourite and there to be shot at. It was very dis­ap­point­ing when she got beaten here a year ago, but it is nice when it all comes to­gether.

“Colm was very con­fi­dent. I had thought she went to the front soon enough, but the fur­ther she raced the bet­ter she went. Any win­ner is great and a Grade One over jumps or a Group One on the Flat; it’s the same feel­ing. I have both my daugh­ters work­ing with me and my sonin-law is about to join us; I hope we all get on.”

A sum­mer of high pro­file po­ten­tial tar­gets awaits Al­pha Cen­tauri now, how­ever speak­ing on Luck on Sun­day on Rac­ing UK, Jes­sica said: “The Breed­ers’ Cup Mile would now def­i­nitely en­ter cal­cu­la­tions, as I know the Niar­chos fam­ily love the race, and wouldn’t it be lovely if the sea­son went well and she stayed in train­ing for next year?”

top: Ac­ci­den­tal Agent win­ning the Queen Anne Stakes. far left: Eve John­son-houghton (be­hind strap­per). left: Anne, Princess Royal

top right: Al­pha Cen­tauri first past the post. above: Jes­sica Har­ring­ton cel­e­brat­ing the win.

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