Sir Michael takes guard for glory bid
SIR Michael Stoute, poor chap, is turning into the Geoffrey Boycott of this Royal Ascot. He is the legend who is finding the final deep stride into the record books hardest to take.
The obdurate Yorkshire batsman spent 33 innings, and many more sleepless nights, trying in vain to score his 100th hundredth.
And here at Ascot, the fine trainer is stuck on 75 winners, level with the late, great boulevardier Sir Henry Cecil.
Time and again Stoute has made the journey from the weighing room to prime his latest horse.
Ten of them. Results: 14th, fourth, fourth, third, fourth, third, second, 10th, third, sixth. Near the target often, but no bullseye yet.
Today offers fresh hope and the prospect of the most dramatic finale to a week of frustration and patience: victory for Dartmouth, owned by the Queen, in the Hardwicke Stakes.
For Boycott the timing was finally perfect — the ton of tons coming not on some out-ground in a distant shire, but at Headingley in front of his adoring home faithful — and against Australia.
Stoute’s sense of theatre would be impeccable if his highest note formed part of the last-day chorus. Tension?
‘No,’ said Stoute. ‘We’ve been able to have a Royal winner on a number of occasions, so there’s no pressure. He’s in good shape and he knows his way around the track. He’s solid.’
Dartmouth beat Highland Reel here 12 months ago, putting him in line for successive glory, and lifted the Yorkshire Cup last month, suggesting form.
And, if Dartmouth does not triumph, Stoute also has Across The Stars, winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at this meeting last year, under his guidance. Another possibility is Khairaat in the Wolferton.
The first of Stoute’s two great hopes yesterday was Crystal Ocean, the well- supported 9-4 favourite in the King Edward VII. A late fade put paid to his chances and he finished third.
To Stoute’s — and the day’s — final race, the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes.
The dutiful trainer stood at attention as he spoke to the Queen, owner of Mainstream, in the parade ring. He touched the right brim of his topper and bowed as she took her leave.
Stoute said a few words to jockey Ryan Moore and tarried with a handful of associates on his way up to watch the race from on high. This time, is wasn’t even terribly close: sixth.
Back in the limelight for the first time since he won the Derby was Padraig Beggy, the Irishman who came from nowhere and slipped back into anonymity. Since his fairytale glory on the 40-1 shot Wings Of Eagles at Epsom, he has had just seven rides — the last one prior to Ascot at Leopardstown at 16-1. The rest have been 33- 1 or longer.
A work rider, rather than a star, his primary job is to ensure Aidan O’Brien’s runners are perfectly prepared.
But, three years after being suspended for a year for taking cocaine and giving false evidence, he was on Hydrangea (16-1) in the Coronation Stakes.
He is no stranger to Hydrangea, having ridden half of her 10 starts prior to yesterday, when he piloted her to third.
So loquacious after he won the Derby, he refused to speak to the press yesterday, the allure of the attendant demands of fame seemingly fleeting.
Record hope: can Dartmouth (left) hit bullseye for Stoute?