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
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.