My Dream Boat sinks Found, A Shin Hikari flounders in Prince of Wales’s
My Dream Boat had been beaten out of sight by A Shin Hikari in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1) at Chantilly last out. But when the Japanese star and raging favorite regressed badly here and beat a retreat to last, My Dream Boat took a leap forward. Despite veering left late, he denied Found in a heartbreaker for fans of the Aidan O’Brien filly.
Going into the Royal meeting, who could have forecast that the trainer/jockey tandem of Clive Cox and Adam Kirby would register a Group 1 double?! Their Profitable was a sensible win candidate in the King’s Stand, but this one was just about inscrutable.
Granted, My Dream Boat was progressive before his Chantilly excursion, but the dual Group 3 winner appeared to have a lot to find with the principals. After landing the Prix Perth (G3) at Saint-Cloud last November, he returned to beat Western Hymn in the April 22 Gordon Richards (G3) at Sandown. All things being equal, defeating Western Hymn at his favorite track would be notable. But Western Hymn was making his first start back since suffering a near-fatal colic attack last summer, and he’d since rounded into form. In their rematch here, I thought for all the world that My Dream Boat wouldn’t beat Western Hymn again – never mind matching up against Found, let alone bridge the chasm with A Shin Hikari.
“I'm absolutely blown away,” Cox said. “It has been an amazing week, the horses have been running so well. I had admiration for A Shin Hikari when we ran against him in France but I knew we hadn't quite run our race. He found a perfect rhythm today and really found for Adam when he asked him to stretch. I wasn't quite sure if he had won as they were poles apart but I was so pleased that we got the victory.
“I always thought enough of him to be here today. He has not surprised me but his upward curve has been phenomenal. It's amazing. It is precisely why you do this job. It feels like a dream."
Found ran another big race in defeat, in circumstances that arguably didn’t suit her. She needs a strong pace that just wasn’t in the cards, and she did well to punch clear in deep stretch and almost pull it off.
“I can't believe we got beaten,” jockey Ryan Moore said.
As planned, Found will now get a well-deserved summer vacation, and O’Brien mentioned a return trip to the United States is in the mix for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) heroine.
Western Hymn was a one-paced third, followed by comebacker The Grey Gatsby, who was completely inconvenienced by the ground.
“He has run great on ground we know he doesn't like,” trainer Kevin Ryan said. “His big strength is his turn of foot and he just couldn't use it on that ground.”
The Grey Gatsby is on course for a rematch with My Dream Boat in the July 2 Eclipse (G1) at Sandown, and on decent ground, he’ll have a great chance of turning the tables. Let’s hope the rain stays away, because Time Test (an absentee from the Prince of Wales's due to the ground) can set the record straight all the way around if he gets the opportunity. At a normal Royal Ascot on proper summer ground, Time Test would have the measure of the lot.
So what happened to A Shin Hikari? I didn’t go overboard with his wide-margin win in the d’Ispahan (no more than you’d take a romp in the slop as a reliable form guide), but with my antepost fancy Time Test out, no pace rival, and proven ability on heavy ground and over undulating courses, I thought he’d probably have things all his own way again.
Apparently A Shin Hikari regressed much more dramatically than I thought possible. Pat Cummings (the Dubai guru who’s now in Hong Kong) commented on Twitter – pre-race – that A Shin Hikari was worryingly subdued. That turned out to be prescient, because he folded tamely after setting the pace into the stretch. Although the stiff 1 1/4 miles on this testing ground may have been at the upper end of his stamina range, I think he was beaten before that came into play. He was in trouble some way out, despite carving out a tepid pace. Japan must go back to the drawing board in search of a first Royal Ascot winner.
Elsewhere on the card, Godolphin scored a treble with Usherette in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) for distaffers, Ribchester in the Jersey (G3) for 3-year-olds, and Portage in the Royal Hunt Cup.
The Duke of Cambridge had U.S. interest in the form of Miss Temple City, who was an honorable fourth under top weight of 131 pounds. The Graham Motion trainee had plenty to overcome, between the ground and spotting Usherette two pounds and placegetters Furia Cruzada and Always Smile five apiece. Runner-up Furia Cruzada did her Chilean homeland proud, considering she wants to go further than a mile. This marked her third outing for John Gosden, and she should continue on an upward curve. Godolphin's Always Smile acquitted herself well on ground she despised, and the Saeed bin Suroor pupil is worth following back on a quicker surface.
Afterward, American fans had another type of interest, not to say reaction, to winning trainer Andre Fabre’s comments on Usherette:
“There are some good American fillies but it would be nice to take her to the Breeders' Cup -- it is an option. I'm quite confident she could beat Tepin, she has an exceptional turn of foot.”
It’s game on at Santa Anita!
Photo of My Dream Boat (far side) mugging Found courtesy of Irish Champions Weekend via Twitter