Royal Ascot - Day 4 Highlights

Date: 24 Jun 2023

Royal Ascot - Day 4 Highlights

Royal Ascot has had a bit of everything this week and it had it's David beats Goliath moment when Shaquille, trained by Julie Camacho in Malton, not only beat the best three-year-old sprinters around in the Commonwealth Cup but gave them a five-length head start when he blew the stalls.

Shaquille's usual modus operandi is to make all the running and in his last four starts he has hardly seen another horse but this time the 9-1 shot reared as the gates opened and to all intents of purpose it was game over; you might get away with that in a mile and a half race but not in Group One sprint.

But the colt put up what jockey Oisin Murphy described as an ‘extraordinary performance' not only to get on the back of the field but then pick up and sustain it to pass the red hot favourite Little Big Bear in the last 100 yards to win by a length and a quarter going away.

Camacho, who took over from her father Maurice, who still runs the stud at which Shaquille was bred by her owners, has about 65 horses and, with her husband Steve Brown, they do well in the north and are growing but a Group One winner, at Ascot to boot, was beyond her wildest expectations.

The trainer took herself off to a quiet corner of the racecourse to watch  because of nerves. “I thought, ‘well that's it, he's blown his chance,” she confessed of his tardy start. “He was good, wasn't he?

“It's massive. We never thought we would train a Group One winner, not at Royal Ascot anyway, and for Martin [Hughes, owner] it's massive. He bred him. We've got his mother at home, his siblings, and dad looks after the stud, so I'm sure he was screaming at home.”

“I was surprised he got back into it. When he started to run, I thought, ‘he's going to be placed' and that he would run a big race, but then I thought ‘oh my God, he's going to win'. I am a bit speechless.”

At home Shaquille (his dam is called Magic and Magic Johnson's big rival in basketball was Shaquille O'Neal) is a dolly.

“He stood there beside the gallop for a photographer the other day and didn't move but he's a different person at the races. He does nothing at home. We thought he might win a seller at best when we first started working him and early on he looked bloody useless. He'd be happy walking up the gallop!

Murphy was delighted to get on the scoreboard and more than impressed with his partner.

“He's a tough, top-class animal,” he said. “It's very hard to win any race doing what he did from the stalls and so to do it in a Group One, and to beat the likes of Little Big Bear, is an astounding performance.

“I've had a fantastic comeback (from 14 month ban) and brilliant support from so many people. To get on the scoresheet today in a Group One is a brilliant feeling. I had three seconds before today so it's nice to win one.”

More used to the rarified atmosphere of the winner's enclosure after a Group One is the Aga Khan and though he leaves the racing to his daughter Princess Zahra now, and 100 years after winning the Coronation for the first time, the family was back in it with Tahiyra, the Irish Guineas winner.

The filly has worked out that as long as you win it does not have to be by a million miles and beat 25-1 shot Remarquee a length to give Dermot Weld his 18th Royal Ascot winner. 480w, 680w, 960w, 1280w" alt="Tahiyra ridden by Chris Hayes in action on their way to winning the Coronation Stakes" width="2500" height="1563" />

Tahiyra proved much the best filly in the Coronation Stakes CREDIT: Reuters/John Sibley

 We know what Frankie Dettori is like when he is on a roll and he won the Albany Stakes on Porta Fortuna which took him to his target of 80 and fairly soon afterwards he made it 81 with Coppice in the Sandringham.

He is now taking most of the Royal Enclosure with him up to the podium. This time it was daughter Mia and some of her friends.

“I was chasing 80,” he said. “That was the big thing for me before I retired. So we got that out of the way. Now I can enjoy it. I've got six more rides, let's hope I can grab another one but now I can just let it happen. I'm loving it. I had Tallula and Leo. When I got in the car Mia said ‘Dad, please ride a winner - I want to get on the stage!' Tomorrow I've got Ella - they all want to get on stage, somehow.”

Porta Fortuna was a first Ascot winner for Donnacha O'Brien and his brother Joseph followed him in with Okita Soushi in the Duke of Edinburgh barely an hour later. Dad Aidan had to be content with Little Big Bear's second in the Commonwealth. Racing, they say, is all about the breeding; horse and human.


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